Cuba lowers expectations on eve of talks with US on restoring diplomatic ties
Cuba lowers expectations on eve of talks with US on restoring diplomatic
A Cuban official says restoring normal relations will take a long time
after more than half a century of enmity
theguardian.com, Wednesday 21 January 2015 02.30 GMT
A senior Cuban official said on Tuesday that restoring diplomatic ties
with the United States won’t immediately lead to a full relationship
between the Cold War foes after a half-century of enmity.
The message appeared designed to lower expectations hours before the
arrival of the highest-level US delegation to Cuba in decades.
The Havana talks start on Wednesday after President Barack Obama makes
his case in the State of the Union address for seizing the opening with
Cuba by ending the US trade embargo of the island. Alan Gross, whose
release from Cuba in a prisoner exchange last month cleared the way for
a new relationship, sat with Michelle Obama.
The high-ranking Cuban diplomat said Tuesday: “Cuba isn’t normalising
relations with the United States. Cuba is re-establishing diplomatic
relations with the US. The process of normalisation is much longer and
deeper.” Reporters were briefed on condition the official not be quoted
The US has taken “steps in the right direction but there’s still far to
go,” the official noted. He expressed optimism about the long-term
prospects for US-Cuban relations as long as Washington does not try to
change Cuba’s single-party government and centrally planned economy —
tenets of Cuba’s system the US has long opposed.
A foreign ministry official separately told reporters that Cuba wants to
be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism before
The Cuban official told Reuters that it it was “unfair” to put Cuba on
the list, which also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.
“We cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations while Cuba
continues to be included on the list,” the senior official told
reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
American officials have repeatedly said they hope their new path of
engagement will empower Cubans and soften the government’s control over
Republican leaders in the House and Senate are opposed to the rapid
rebuilding of relations with President Raul Castro still firmly in
control of Cuba. Other obstacles include billions of dollars in economic
claims against Cuba’s government, American fugitives living freely in
Cuba and the opposition of many Cuban-Americans.
But the biggest potential challenge is Castro’s government itself, which
needs a rapid infusion of cash into its stagnant economy but fears
Obama’s new policy merely repackages the longstanding US goal to push
him from power.
Leading the US delegation to Havana is Roberta Jacobson, the most senior
American official to visit Cuba in 35 years. The rosters on both sides
include officials well-known to one another from years of cautious
efforts to improve cooperation.
“We always have tough things to say to them but nevertheless this is a
professional discussion,” said John Caulfield, who headed the US
interest section in Havana until last year. “You don’t have to break the
ice. People understand each other.”
Wednesday’s conversations start with a continuation of efforts by both
sides in recent years to promote what the state department calls “safe,
legal and orderly migration,” covering everything from the security of
charter flights that travel regularly between Miami and Havana to
rooting out fraudulent passports and partnering on potential search and
Thursday’s talks are trickier, dealing with the mechanics of
re-establishing a US embassy in Havana headed by an ambassador, and a
Cuban embassy in Washington.
Immediate US objectives include the lifting of restrictions on American
diplomats’ staffing numbers and travel inside Cuba, easier shipments to
the current US interests section and unfettered access for Cubans to the
building. Cuba’s government hasn’t signaled how it will respond, but the
Americans say restoration of full diplomatic ties depends on how quickly
the Cubans meet the US requests. Jacobson will also meet Cuban activists
and civil society representatives.
The US and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, soon after
Fidel Castro seized power. Interests sections were established in the
late 1970s as a means of opening a channel between the two countries,
but any diplomatic goodwill they generated quickly evaporated. In the
years since, both governments have enforced restrictions on the activity
of each other’s diplomats.
Some changes have come since December’s declaration of detente. The
Cubans last week released 53 political prisoners. Three days later, the
Obama administration significantly eased travel and trade rules with Cuba.
Source: Cuba lowers expectations on eve of talks with US on restoring
diplomatic ties | World news | theguardian.com –