HAVANA TIMES — The ball is moving quickly in the new relationship between the United States and Cuban governments. High level delegations will hold important talks in Havana starting Wednesday, first on migration issues, and then, on Thursday, negotiations open to resume diplomatic ties broken off by the US in 1961, reports dpa news.
The Cuban government also confirmed for the first time its plans to open an embassy in Washington, as will the White House in Havana, announced by US President Barack Obama on December 17.
“On January 22nd takes place the first meeting on the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) stated.
“At this meeting the principles and steps for the restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both countries will be addressed,” it added.
Josefina Vidal, director for US affairs at MINREX, will lead the Cuban delegation at the meeting to be held at the Havana Convention Center,
Washington announced earlier that Assistant Secretary of the Department of State for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, will head up the US delegation in Havana.
In simultaneous speeches by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro, both countries announced on December 17 a historic agreement to resume diplomatic ties after more than half a century of rupture and ideological confrontation.
Obama also ordered measures that weaken the US economic embargo imposed on Cuba for more than 50 years. The measures came into effect on Friday January 16th. The full embargo, however, can only be lifted by the US Congress.
Bilateral meetings begin next Wednesday in Havana with a round of talks on migration issues. The meeting was scheduled for some time and is part of one of the few mechanisms for contacts that already existed between the two countries.
The migration talks are held on a intermittent basis since the mid-90s and seek to coordinate joint actions to tackle illegal migration.
Jacobson is the highest diplomatic representative to travel to Havana in decades.
US senators visit
Meanwhile, on Saturday a delegation arrives in Havana of six US senators and representatives who have already been to Cuba several times in recent years. The group of Democratic Party politicians is led by Patrick Leahy from the state of Vermont. They will be on the island for three days.
Besides Leahy the delegation includes: Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; and Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.
“This is the first visit to Cuba by members of Congress since the change in US policy was announced by President Obama on December 17,” Leahy said from Washington on Friday.
“We have all been to Cuba before, and we strongly support the president’s new direction for our policy toward Cuba. We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans’ expectations, for the normalization of relations,” added Leahy.
The senators will meet with representatives of the Cuban government and also hope to meet with the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega. On previous visits, Leahy has always met with representatives of Cuban civil society, noted US diplomatic sources.