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    U.S., Cuba Plan To Resume Talks About Restarting Direct Mail Service

    Official: U.S., Cuba Plan To Resume Talks About Restarting Direct Mail
    Service
    By MATTHEW LEE and PAUL HAVEN 06/17/13 06:38 AM ET EDT

    WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba will resume talks this week on
    restarting direct mail service despite a deadlock between Washington and
    Havana over detainees that has largely stalled most rapprochement
    efforts, a U.S. official said Monday.

    U.S. and Cuban diplomats and postal representatives will meet in
    Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday for technical talks aimed at ending
    a 50-year suspension in direct mail between the United States and the
    communist island. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because
    he was not authorized to speak to the matter publicly before Congress is
    notified. Lawmakers were to be notified of the meetings starting Monday
    morning, the official said.

    The resumption in talks does not signify any change in the Obama
    administration’s Cuba policy, the official said, stressing that the
    discussions are taking place in the context of the Cuba Democracy Act of
    1992 and are consistent with the U.S. interest “in promoting the free
    flow of information to, from and within Cuba.”

    Cuba and the United States have had no direct mail service since 1963,
    though letters do go back and forth via third countries.

    In and of themselves, the discussions are not particularly significant,
    but the fact the two Cold War enemies are talking at all is. And, in the
    past, both governments have used the bilateral meetings as a pretext to
    discuss wider issues. In 2009, a senior State Department official in
    Havana for mail talks ended up staying six extra days and even spoke
    secretly with Cuba’s deputy foreign minister – then the highest-level
    meeting between the two sides in decades.

    The mail talks and separate negotiations on immigration have been on
    hold since then over demands by Washington that Cuba release jailed
    American subcontractor Alan Gross.

    Gross was arrested in December 2009 while on a USAID-funded democracy
    building program and is serving a 15-year sentence after being caught
    bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally.

    Washington has continued to insist that no major progress in improving
    ties is possible while Gross is in jail. Cuba, for its part, is asking
    Washington to release four Cuban intelligence agents serving long jail
    terms in the United States. A fifth completed his sentence earlier this
    year and was allowed to return to Cuba after he renounced his American
    citizenship.

    In recent months, Cuban and U.S. officials have spoken of a better
    working relationship, with diplomats on both sides routinely granted
    approval to travel outside each other’s capital. But whether the
    behind-the-scenes thaw will result in any improvement in the countries’
    formal relationship is anybody’s guess.

    ___

    Haven reported from Havana.

    Source: “Official: U.S., Cuba Plan To Resume Talks About Restarting
    Direct Mail Service” –
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/17/us-cuba-mail-talks_n_3452762.html