The author of this post led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Cuba this week.

It is time for the United States to enter a dialogue with Cuba. America has important interests in Cuba and strong disagreements with the Cuban government. At a time when Cuba is changing and the opportunities to advance our interests and values in Cuba are not known, we unanimously believe that the United States should respond positively to the proposal made by Raul Castro in his speech of December 2.

No one should be under the illusion that a negotiation with Cuba would be easy, or that results would be guaranteed. But if we refuse to engage in normal diplomacy, we are guaranteed to produce no results at all.

We should be consulting regularly about migration issues, to protect national security and to save lives. We should see if more can be done to fight drug trafficking. We should be talking right now about Cuba’s offshore oil exploration, given its potential impact on our own marine environment. We know there are fugitives from American justice here, and there are some in U.S. custody who are of interest to Cuba. Perhaps there is the basis of an agreement there. There may be other areas of opportunity. Only by probing Cuba’s proposal is it possible to find out.

Our visit provided the first official American contact with senior Cuban officials since the delegation of executive powers last July 31. We appreciate the time and courtesies that our hosts extended throughout our visit.