HAVANA (Reuters) – The United States and Cuba will meet in Washington on
June 18 for a new round of talks on migration, despite ongoing tensions
between the longtime ideological foes, a U.S. spokeswoman in Havana said
This will be the third time they have met to talk over migration since
President Barack Obama became president last year, and represent one of
his avenues for trying to improve relations with the communist-led island.
The discussions primarily cover agreements from the mid-1990s aimed at
preventing an exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States such as the
1980 Mariel boatlift and the 1994 wave of boat people.
Gloria Berbena, spokeswoman at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana,
said she did not know where the talks would be held in Washington nor
could she say who would lead either delegation.
Obama has taken small steps toward improving relations with Cuba,
including the renewal of the migration talks, which were canceled under
his predecessor, President George W. Bush, in 2004.
He also has eased the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba by
letting Cuban Americans travel to their homeland without restrictions
and initiated talks on restoring direct postal service.
But relations cooled again after Cuba arrested in December a U.S.
contractor, Alan Gross, who was working illegally on the island for a
U.S. program promoting democracy on the island.
He remains behind bars without charges.
The United States has conceded Gross entered Cuba on a tourist visa
without declaring his true intent, but said he went to the island only
to provide Internet services for Jewish groups. Cuba has said he was
part of longstanding U.S. attempts to subvert the Cuban government.
The United States has repeatedly requested his release and is expected
to do so again at the talks in Washington, U.S. diplomats have said.
Previous migration talks under Obama were held in New York last July and
in Havana in February.