Thursday, May 21, 2015

'Significant differences' with Cuba remain - US diplomat

'Significant differences' with Cuba remain: US diplomat

Washington (AFP) - Major differences remain between the United States
and Cuba as they move to restore ties, especially on human rights, a top
US official said Wednesday on the eve of new talks.

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"Significant differences remain between our two governments," top US
diplomat for Latin America Roberta Jacobson told US lawmakers.

"We continue to raise our concerns regarding democracy, human rights and
freedom of expression," she said.

But ahead of sitting down Thursday with a Cuban delegation for a fourth
round of talks on ending decades of enmity, Jacobson insisted that
Washington's policy was "a clear-eyed strategy that empowers the Cuban
people to determine their own future by creating new economic
opportunities and increasing their contact with the outside world."

After five months of negotiations, US officials say the two Cold War
foes are closer to ending five decades of diplomatic hostilities and
reopening embassies.

But Washington has certain demands, including that its diplomats be able
to meet freely with dissidents on the communist-run island. Cuba for its
part has been vocal in its opposition to US-funded democracy programs on
the island.

The diplomatic push has been advancing since US President Barack Obama
and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December that the two
countries would seek full diplomatic relations. They currently have
downgraded ties, and operate with just Interests Sections in each
other's capital.

Castro and Obama also held a historic meeting in Panama in April on the
sidelines of a regional summit.

Two key Cuban demands ahead of reopening embassies appear to have been
almost met.

Obama has told Congress he intends to remove the Caribbean island from a
US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and Havana has now found a bank
willing to handle its business on American soil.

"While progress has been made in our efforts to reestablish diplomatic
relations, we are not there yet," Jacobson told the Senate foreign
relations committee.

Americans diplomats on the Caribbean island continued to face
"challenging circumstances," Jacobson said.

But she stressed that Washington would meet with a broad section of
Cubans "to gain their perspectives on the best way forward for the country."

Source: 'Significant differences' with Cuba remain: US diplomat - Yahoo
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