The United States and Cuba will hold a new round of talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening embassies Monday, the State Department said Friday.
Roberta Jacobson, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, will travel to the Cuban capital of Havana Sunday for talks with Josefina Vidal, Director General of the US Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two sides have been in communication since last meeting held in Washington in February, the State Department said in a statement, adding that “it is in the interest of both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies.”
“A US Embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people,” it said.
President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December that they have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, in a move to end more than half a century of estrangement between the two countries.
The two sides have held two rounds of talks in hopes of reopening embassies before a regional summit in April.
On Friday, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call that the US still hopes that the embassies could be reopened before the Summit of the Americas slated for April 10-11.
One sticking point of the talks is Cuba’s inclusion in the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. In announcing the policy shift toward Cuba in December, President Obama instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s designation in the blacklist.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that the US is still reviewing whether Cuba can be removed from the blacklist and will “complete that as quickly as we can.” “We have always said that that should not be linked to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations or opening of embassies,” said the official, who dismissed that Cuba’s support for Venezuela following US sanctions would affect talks between Washington and Havana.
“Cuba has been, obviously, an ally of Venezuela’s for quite a while. Venezuela’s been an ally of Cuba in the past,” the official said. “But what I will say, and I want to be very clear about this, is, it will not have an impact on these conversations moving forward.”