Historic US-Cuba talks take place in Havana

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The United States and Cuba have completed the first round in a series of talks aimed at mending ties between the two countries

 

The United States has met with Cuba for the highest-level talks in decades between the two nations in the Cuban capital of Havana.

The latest talks come as part of a greater thaw in US-Cuba relations, announced last month by President Barack Obama and his counterpart Raul Castro. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached on the opening of embassies in each other’s countries. However, it has been revealed that this would be made at a later, unspecified time.

The US formally severed ties with the island nation in 1961 after a communist takeover by then President, Fidel Castro.

“We have spoken about the principles upon which our diplomatic relations should be reestablished,” said Gustavo Manchin, the Cuban deputy director for US affairs.

Another US official described the first day of discussions as “productive and collaborative”.

Topics of discussion included dealing with restoring full diplomatic ties as well as migration. “We have to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust,” said US diplomat Roberta Jacobson.

The delegation is currently headed by Jacobson, a seasoned U.S. diplomat in Latin America. The country has not seen such a high-ranking official visit in 35 years.

It is expected that a new meeting will be scheduled within the coming weeks prior to the Summit of the Americas in April, which Obama and Castro will both attend.

The talks come not even two days after Obama outlined his plan of action with respect to Cuban diplomatic ties during the annual State of the Union address.

He communicated the need to reform an outdated policy, which would effectively “end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere”.

The President also acknowledged that the path toward total friendship between the two nations would not necessarily be a quick one.

“And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps’”.

Indeed, the first set of talks represent merely a starting point upon which a total reversal of US-Cuba foreign policy might become a reality.

The President will still need the support of Congress in order to lift a trade embargo that has restricted the free flow of goods between the two nations for decades, which raises many doubts on the success of Obama’s initiative.

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