QUESTION: Speaking of the UN, the General Assembly had its annual vote today on the Cuba embargo. You got two people to join you, two countries. Can you remind – (a) remind of what those two countries are, and (b) tell us what you think of the vote?
MR. KELLY: I think one was Palau, Matt. Who was the other one?
QUESTION: I don’t know. I think it – it’s usually, generally, the Solomon Islands.
QUESTION: I thought it was Micronesia.
QUESTION: Or Micronesia.
QUESTION: Or was that about Israel?
MR. KELLY: All right. Well, let me give you the guidance on this. The United States believes it has the sovereign right to conduct economic – its economic relationship with Cuba as determined by U.S. national interests. Sanctions on Cuba are designed to permit humanitarian items to reach the Cuban people, while denying the Cuban Government resources that it could use to repress its citizens.
This yearly exercise at the UN obscures the fact that the United States is a leading source of food and humanitarian relief to Cuba. In 2008, the United States exported $717 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba.
QUESTION: Sorry. Wood?
MR. KELLY: Wood.
MR. KELLY: Sanctions is one part of the United States policy approach to Cuba. In recent months, as you know, we’ve reached out to the Cuban people. We’ve taken steps to promote the free flow of information, we’ve lifted restrictions on family visits, and we’ve expanded the kinds and amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to Cuba. We’ve also taken steps to establish a more constructive dialogue with Cuba. We’ve reestablished dialogues on migration, and we’ve initiated talks to reestablish direct mail service.
We remain focused on the need for improved human rights conditions and respect for fundamental freedoms in Cuba, and we would need to see improvements in those areas before we could normalize relations with Havana.
QUESTION: But, I mean, you have no opinion on the fact that the rest of the world thinks that this is a bad way to go?
MR. KELLY: Well --
QUESTION: That the whole world – I mean, Palau notwithstanding – excuse me.
MR. KELLY: This – it seems to me to be an annual exercise that --
QUESTION: It’s an annual exercise to tell you that the rest of the world thinks --
MR. KELLY: -- seems to be – kind of has inertia from the Cold War. The suggestion that we’re not assisting Cuba is just false. I mean, we are one of the major providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. But we don’t believe that we should – while there are repressive measures in place in Cuba, that we should reward the Government of Cuba by lifting the economic sanctions that could assist the Government of Cuba in its repression of its own citizens.
QUESTION: Well, it seems that the rest of the world thinks that, in fact, if you were to lift the embargo, that could help the repression – lift it.
MR. KELLY: Well, we don’t think it’s time to lift that embargo. The – we will consider that when the Government of Cuba starts to make some positive steps towards loosening up its repression of its own people.
QUESTION: Ian, without getting into a philosophical and – especially a lengthy or philosophical debate about this, you said that this, as an annual exercise, is a Cold War remnant.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, there a lot of people who would argue that the embargo is a Cold War remnant. I mean, this is the first year that this vote has happened, where you’ve been in this tiny minority that you are – that the U.S. is the only country in this hemisphere not to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we – our policy in Cuba is designed to try and move Cuba to doing the right thing towards its own people. And they have not taken the kind of steps to show us that they’re willing to open up their society and open up their economy. And until they do these things, we’re not willing to change our policy. Having said that, we also want to have --
QUESTION: Having said that --
MR. KELLY: -- a productive dialogue.
QUESTION: -- how long has the embargo been in place now?
MR. KELLY: I think it’s been in place almost 50 years.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
MR. KELLY: Well, that’s a long time to have a repressive system.
QUESTION: Well, it’s also a long time to have a policy that has produced absolutely no results.
MR. KELLY: Well, we’re – we are looking to try and put our relationship – with Cuba on a more productive path.