HAVANA : Cuba and the United States resumed talks Thursday on implementing a nearly two-decade-old agreement to encourage safe and legal migration, a US diplomatic source said. An official with the US Interests Section in Havana confirmed that the talks began on schedule Thursday morning and will end on Friday.
Neither the govt nor Cuba’s media reported, the second set to be held since they resumed in Washington in July 2013 after a two year suspension. The US delegation, which arrived in Cuba on Tuesday, is headed by acting deputy assistant secretary of state Edward Alex Lee while the Cuban side is represented by the head of the foreign ministry’s US department, Josefina Vidal. The talks center on the implementation of agreements reached in 1994 and 1995, after a crisis in which thousands of Cubans left the island.
US law automatically grants refugee status to Cubans who manage to reach US shores, which acts as a lure for the thousands of Cubans who each year attempt to leave the island illegally. The two countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961, but bilateral matters are handled by offices in their respective capitals.
The talks come a month after US President Barack Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro shook hands in South Africa at a memorial ceremony for the late Nelson Mandela. It also comes as more Cubans are travelling abroad under newly liberalized rules. Cubans made more than 250,000 trips abroad in the first 10 months of 2013 after longstanding restrictions on travel were eased. About 36 percent of those were to the United States, where there is a large community of Cuban exiles.