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John Kerry: 'We Were So Eager' To Reopen Diplomatic Ties With Cuba


At the State Department in Washington today, Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister of Cuba.


And later in the day, Secretary Kerry sat down with our colleague Steve Inskeep to discuss a range of issues, including why opening a relationship with Cuba is important.


JOHN KERRY: We had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. We had diplomatic relations with then-called Red China. You know, we have to have relationships with countries to do business. And American citizens get hurt when we don't do that. Given the fact there are so many Cuban-Americans, people who have family in Cuba, to not have a relationship where we can, you know, advocate for people, advocate for human rights, advocate for fairness for elections, for democracy, for travel, for engagement, all these things that make a difference the quality of life of Cubans would be a terrible, terrible mistake.

SIEGEL: Steve also asked Kerry to respond to critics of the Iran nuclear deal who say that both the president and Secretary Kerry were clearly too eager for the deal. He asked Kerry if he could remember a moment when he was prepared to walk away from the negotiating table.


KERRY: The fact is that I walked away three times. And we were more than ready to walk away in the end, as I made clear on Sunday when I came out before the cameras and said, if things don't change, we're going home. And I told that to my counterpart. I suppose - I suppose we were so eager - that's why it took four years to negotiate. I mean, really, it's one of the dumbest criticisms I've ever heard in my life because it has no relationship to reality of what we were engaged in. President Obama, in almost every conversation, would say, remember, John, you can walk away. So we had no compunctions about it whatsoever.

BLOCK: And tomorrow on Morning Edition, you can hear more of Steve Inskeep's interview with the secretary, including how Kerry thinks the world will react if Congress says no to the Iran agreement. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.