The first high-level talks between Cuba and the United States in nearly 40 years have “opened a new chapter” in their ties, the state-run Granma daily has said. “After more than half a century of deadlock, Cuba and the US held their highest-level talks in decades Wednesday and Thursday in Havana, to pave the way towards restoring diplomatic ties and opening embassies, among other bilateral matters,” Xinhua quoted the official daily of the ruling Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party as saying.
The talks were “described as fruitful and productive by both sides, but showed there is still much left to do,” said Granma, adding: “Cuba expressed its confidence in a better future for our nations.” Roberta Jacobson, US assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and head of the US delegation to the talks, said no date could be given as yet on the opening of their respective embassies in Havana and Washington, where both countries maintain pared down Interests Sections for handling consular affairs. But she did say “we are working quickly,” Granma said.
The historic talks took place after US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro announced Dec 17 their decision to normalise ties severed in Jan 1961. The announcement was accompanied by a humanitarian prisoner exchange and an almost immediate, though limited, relaxation of US restrictions on travel to Cuba and the flow of US dollars to the island, though most of the measures exclusively affect Cuban expatriates, not Americans in general, who still can not travel freely to Cuba.
In an article, Granma warned that normalising ties would be a “lengthy and extensive process,” saying both sides agreed more meetings were necessary, though no dates have been set. “This is going to be a long and complex process that will require an effort on both sides,” Granma quoted head of the Cuban delegation to the talks Josefina Vidal as saying.
Vidal reiterated that a major sticking point for Cuba is the Washington-led trade embargo against the island nation. “She affirmed that for our country, the lifting of the blockade is essential to normalising ties,” said Granma. The daily also said that Obama has called on the US Congress to seriously debate ending the embargo slapped on Cuba mjore than five decades ago. During their historic talks, both sides also discussed potential areas of cooperation, including aviation safety, response to oil spills, and the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and epidemics like Ebola. (IANS)