HAVANA TIMES — The governments of Cuba and the United States agreed today on an agenda of issues to address in the coming months to try to “normalize” relations after resuming full diplomatic ties in mid-July.
The first meeting of the bilateral commission took place Friday in Havana agreed upon on August 14, when the United States formally reopened its embassy on the island. The commission opened a permanent mechanism for bilateral dialogue, whose second meeting is scheduled for November in Washington.
Today’s meeting was led by Josefina Vidal, for the Cuban side, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State, Edward Alex Lee, for the USA. Vidal was the diplomat who led the talks in the first half of the year with the United States to reopen embassies.
“We managed to define a bilateral agenda that will start running from next week,” Vidal said after the meeting. The agenda includes a first section of issues of mutual concern and cooperation, said Vidal, director of US affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
“The delegations agreed on the functions and scope of work of the bilateral commission, and the frequency of future meetings,” noted Cuba in a statement.
According to Vidal, the agenda includes a second section of issues where the countries have differences, such as those related to human rights.
In a third group, the delegations plan to discuss the mutual demands for financial compensation, one of the thorniest issues in bilateral relations.
“We have decided to include on the agenda of the next few months the discussion on the issue of compensation,” said Vidal. “There are claims for compensation from Cuba for economic and human damage, and there are claims by the US for properties nationalized after the triumph of the Revolution (in 1959),” she added.
The Cuban delegation also mentioned the “search for solutions” to those “outstanding issues” in its statement. “It is a highly complicated issue,” said Vidal.
Among the areas where both parties see opportunities for cooperation are the protection of the environment, natural disaster prevention and the fight against drug trafficking.
Despite the historic thaw announced in December 2014 and the resumption of diplomatic relations from July 20 this year, both countries have repeatedly stated that they still maintain “profound differences”.
The United States has said it will continue criticizing the situation of civil liberties on the socialist island. In addition to calling for an end to the economic and trade embargo that the US government imposes since the 1960s, Cuba demands the return of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.