US, Cuba to resume talks over normalising ties

Havana, Nov 9 (IANS) Cuban and US government representatives are set to resume negotiations on Tuesday on normalising ties.

The second meeting of the Cuba-US Bilateral Commission, created after the two nations restored diplomatic ties earlier this year, will take place in Washington, Xinhua reported.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said the two delegations will review topics agreed during the commission’s first meeting in September in Havana.

The delegates will discuss “results achieved over the intervening months (since September) and the complex issues between the two countries, including the lifting of the blockade,” the ministry said, referring to the US-led trade embargo against Cuba.

The bilateral agenda also includes human rights issues, as Washington has essentially imposed its embargo on Cuba over allegations that the socialist government restricts the right to assembly and freedom of speech.

The commission “will outline the next steps to be taken by the two countries over the coming months, such as possible mutually beneficial agreements, technical meetings on areas of common interest, exchanges on issues of bilateral and multilateral interest (and) high level visits … as part of the process of moving toward normalisation of relations,” said the ministry.

The meeting comes in the wake of recent statements by Washington that President Barack Obama is looking into ways to further relax restrictions against Cuba via executive order, since only congress can repeal the embargo enacted in 1962 by John F. Kennedy’s administration.

At a press briefing last week, State Department spokesman John Kirby said “the president is going to continue to review his options and opportunities that he has under his existing authorities to relax.”

Obama has made some small adjustments to travel and trade restrictions, but they remain mainly symbolic measures that have no real impact on Cuba’s economy.

The US delegation is led by Alex Lee, deputy assistant secretary for South America and Cuba at the State Department.

The Cuban delegation is headed by Josefina Vidal, general director for US affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

The bilateral commission was established by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez during the former’s historic visit to Havana in August to opened the new US embassy.

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