- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Obama administration has no intention of meeting Cuban President Raul Castro’s various preconditions for normalizing diplomatic relations with the U.S., officials said Thursday.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the administration, while not entertaining the idea of, for example, returning the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, does not regret the historic decision to end 50 years of isolation and reopen diplomatic avenues with Havana.

“I think what [Mr. Castro’s] comments highlight is there are pretty clear differences between establishing diplomatic relations and carrying out the longer process of normalizing relations,” Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Castro this week laid out three central conditions for fully normalizing relations with the U.S. — the lifting of the American embargo on Cuba; the return of Guantanamo to the Cuban government; and compensation for the “human and economic damage” suffered by the Cubans as a result of U.S. policies.

It’s not yet clear whether Congress will move to lift the embargo, but the White House all but ruled out the other two conditions.

Still, Mr. Earnest said the decision to open diplomatic channels with Havana was a good one, as it will allow the U.S. to have greater influence over the country and provide a more formal way to express displeasure with certain Cuban policies.

“There are a variety of concerns we have with the way the Castro regime treats political dissidents, the way they treat individuals who are trying to freely express their views, even the way they treat some reporters,” he said.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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