Wednesday, May 21, 2014

US presses Cuba on jailed contractor in rare meeting

US presses Cuba on jailed contractor in rare meeting
State Department official and Cuban counterpart discuss fate of Jewish
American contractor serving 15 year sentence
BY JTA May 20, 2014, 9:24 pm

WASHINGTON — The top US State Department official dealing with Latin
America brought up the plight of Alan Gross in a rare meeting with her
Cuban counterpart.!

Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western
Hemisphere affairs, met in Washington May 15 with Josefina Vidal, the
Cuban foreign ministry's director general for US affairs.

"Among other issues, the continued imprisonment of Alan Gross was
discussed during the meeting," said a State Department official
responding Monday to a JTA query about the meeting, which was posted on
the State Department's daily schedule.

"We reiterated again how important it is to the United States that Alan
be able to return home and be reunited with his family," said the official.

Meetings at such a senior level between US and Cuban officials are rare.
Gross is serving a 15-year sentence for "crimes against the state."

On a mission to connect Cuba's small Jewish community to the Internet
while working as a subcontractor for the US Agency for International
Development, Gross was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba.
He was convicted in 2011.

Vidal has indicated in interviews since Gross' arrest that Cuba was
seeking the return to Cuba of five imprisoned spies in return for Gross.
So far, two of the "Cuban Five" have been released earlier than maximum
time served and have returned to the island.

Separately, a group of 44 former officials from Republican and
Democratic administrations and Cuban American community leaders wrote
President Obama urging him to welcome Cuban reforms by opening up ties
with the country.

The letter, reported Monday by Reuters, said Obama should condition such
concessions on Cuban moves to release Gross. The Cuban Americans among
those signing favor loosening restrictions on relations with Cuba; much
of the community still favors keeping restrictions in place.

Earlier last week, Jacobson also had a closed meeting with Yitzhak
Shoham, her counterpart in Israel's foreign ministry.

Shoham was in Washington to attend the annual American Jewish Committee

After their meeting, Shoham and Jacobson both attended an AJC memorial
for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos
Aires, which killed 85 people.

Argentinean prosecutors believe Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind
the bombing.

Source: US presses Cuba on jailed contractor in rare meeting | The Times
of Israel -

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