By Isaac Risco (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — The governments of Cuba and the United States will meet again in the coming weeks to continue working on details for resuming diplomatic relations, the negotiators said today after a first round of talks in Havana.
In their first encounter the diplomats were unable to establish a concrete roadmap for resuming the relations broken off in 1961. They hope a new round of negotiations, at a date yet to be determined, will lead to the reopening of embassies.
“There is no deadline yet defined,” said the chief negotiator for Cuba, Josefina Vidal. “We should get together soon. We have to agree on a date,” she noted.
“In the coming weeks we will exchange proposed dates for the next meeting,” said Vidal after the first encounter with the high level US delegation led by Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary for Latin American affairs at the State Department.
Both Jacobson and Vidal, who heads the US Affairs desk at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said they were unsure whether more encounters beyond a second round would be needed on the issue of opening embassies.
Both sides stressed that negotiations on Thursday took place in a “friendly” atmosphere.
“The first round of talks was a positive and constructive dialogue,” Jacobson said in her first appearance before the press since she arrived in Havana on Wednesday.
“We discussed real and concrete steps required for the restoration of diplomatic relations between our countries,” she added.
Jacobson also stressed that diplomatic normalization will be a “long and complex” process beyond the reopening of embassies.
“The restoration of relations and opening of embassies is only part of a broader process of the normalization of relations,” said Jacobson the highest government official in Washington to visit the Caribbean island since 1980.
In their appearance before the media, both parties also spoke on the sidelines of the “deep” differences between the two countries after decades of ideological rivalry.
The situation of human rights is of central interest to my government, said Jacobson. In answering a question she noted: “Yes we have differences on this issue, profound differences.” According to the US diplomat, her delegation addressed the issue at talks today. However Vidal denied it.
The Cuban side, however, emphasized that it expects new diplomatic relations to respect the “sovereign equality” and “national self-determination”.
“For Cuba this means reciprocal respect for the political, economic and social systems of both states and avoiding any form of interference in each other’s internal affairs,” Vidal said.
“Nobody should expect that to improve relations, Cuba will relinquish its principles,” she added. The government of Raul Castro has ruled out on several occasions political reforms in the one-party system that has governed the island for over half a century.
Washington and Havana simultaneously announced on December 17, 2014, a historic agreement to restore diplomatic relations after more than half a century of rupture and confrontation.
The high-ranking delegations from the two countries meet on Wednesday in a round of negotiations on migration issues, and then on Thursday to begin the process for establishing respective embassies.