Cuba, US meet next week on normalising ties

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Havana, May 13 (IANS) Cuban and US officials are set to meet again next week on normalising ties.

The third session of the Cuba-US Bilateral Commission will take place on May 16 in Havana, with the focus on improving political and economic ties, Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Deputy Director for US affairs, Gustavo Machin said on Thursday.

“We will cover a number of issues we have been able to discuss in the last few months and we will set the agenda for the rest of the year,” said Machin.

The two sides continue to have many differences on key matters, such as the withdrawal of US forces from Guantanamo Bay and the lifting of the Washington-led trade embargo, Xinhua news agency quoted the official as saying.

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However, less than a year since they formally reopened embassies, Havana and Washington have made significant progress in the areas of environmental protection and maritime security, and have resumed postal services and direct flights, he noted.

In the diplomatic and political field, there have been many achievements through the meetings presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama have held, particularly the visit of Obama to Cuba in March, Machin said.

In the economic field, however, many unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington continue to hamper the normalisation of ties, he said.

“Cuba hasn’t been able to make financial transactions in U.S. dollars, which means that banks around the world fear dealing with Cuban institutions because of possible sanctions by Washington,” said Machin.

The third bilateral commission will be led by Josefina Vidal, the ministry’s head of US affairs, and Kristie Kenney, counsellor for the US State Department.

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