Cuba and the United States held a second round of talks this Friday toward normalizing relations between the two countries, although they have not yet set a date for the resumption of diplomatic relations severed 54 years ago.
The Cuban delegation was headed by Director General of the US Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, and the US delegation by Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the State Department, Roberta Jacobson.
Going into the talks, Cuba insisted on being removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, but Washington said that while it was reviewing the place of Cuba on the list, the designation should not be related to negotiations for the renewal of relations and the opening of embassies. Josefina Vidal admitted that the delisting of terrorism is not a precondition for the renewal of diplomatic relations, but noted that itself was a “major issue” and a priority for the Caribbean nation.
Secretary of State John Kerry said hours before the meeting that the restoration of diplomatic relations was a technical process that involves a series of “quite normal” negotiations, while designating sponsor of terrorism was a separate process and not a negotiation. “This is an assessment that is done under very strict requirements, mandated by Congress, which must be pursued separately, and is being pursued separately.” He added that “nothing will be done regarding the list until the evaluation is completed.”
The Cuban delegation stressed the need to ensure compliance with the principles of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, which should be the basis of future diplomatic relations and the operation of the respective embassies. It was also emphasized in compliance with the rules relating to the functions of diplomatic missions, the behavior of their staff, to respect national laws and nonintervention in the internal affairs of States.
US hopes to reach agreement on the reopening of embassies for April 11, when the regional summit will be held in Panama and where US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will meet for the first time since announced their joint agreement on December17. Roberta Jacobson, told reporters in response to a question: “I think we can do this in time for the Summit of the Americas.”
During the talks they addressed details on visits and bilateral technical meetings to be held in the coming weeks on topics such as civil aviation, trafficking, telecommunications, immigration fraud prevention and regulatory changes that modify the implementation of the blockade. Jacobson said that Cuba and the United States will hold a series of exchanges in the coming weeks on topics including increased capacity Internet connectivity Cuba.
The Obama administration is nearing completion of its review of the place of Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, which must be submitted to Congress before they can be removed, a senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday.
After the announcement of December17, the Obama administration lifted a number of restrictions on trade and travel and last month the US president, a Democrat, called for an end to decades of economic embargo on Cuba. The embargo should be lifted by the Republican-controlled Congress, overcoming resistance from some members fiercely opposed to the rapprochement.