Senior US diplomat to return to Cuba for more negotiations

Author: Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) – Washington’s senior envoy for Latin America is returning to Cuba this weekend for further talks on restoring diplomatic ties more than 50 years after they were severed, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

U.S. and Cuban diplomats have met twice so far this year to discuss restarting relations and reopening embassies in their respective capitals, but a third round of face-to-face talks had not been expected to happen at this time.

The Obama administration is eager to strike a deal before the April summit of the Organization of American States in Panama, which both he and Cuba’s Raul Castro are expected to attend.

In a statement, the State Department said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson would arrive in Havana on Sunday and meet with her counterpart in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal.

It added that both sides have maintained contact since their previous meeting in Washington last month, and renewing ties and embassies is in both countries’ interest.

Obstacles to a deal are Cuba’s inability to do normal banking in the United States and its continued inclusion on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terror. The White House has ordered a review of that designation.

The United States wants increase staff levels at its diplomatic mission in Havana, which stands to become an embassy along with Cuba’s own Interests Section in Washington.

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