WASHINGTON: Cuba and the United States have much to negotiate before the two nations can normalize ties frozen for more than five decades, top US diplomat John Kerry said Wednesday.
Speaking on the eve of ground-breaking talks in Havana on restoring normal ties, the US secretary of state said there were “certain things” to be negotiated “as a matter of course.”
“Our hope is that the policy of normalization will put us in a stronger position to advance our interests, our values… and to empower the people of Cuba ultimately,” Kerry told reporters.
Items to negotiate include the lifting of travel restrictions on diplomats, ending caps on the numbers of diplomatic staff, “unimpeded shipments to our mission in order to be able to function correctly” as well as allowing free access to the US mission in Havana, which Washington would also guarantee for the Cuban post here.
It was a negotiation which required “mutual consent,” Kerry said, as the US team led by Roberta Jacobson, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, prepared for Thursday’s talks.
Jacobson is the highest-ranking US official to set foot in Cuba since 1980, and the teams held a first round of talks on migration issues on Wednesday.
“When it is timely, when it is appropriate, I’ll look forward to traveling to Cuba in order to formally open an embassy and begin to move forward,” Kerry added, after talks with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The meetings in Havana follow the historic decision by US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro in December to seek normal ties, which will involve reopening embassies in each country, as well as appointing ambassadors.
In his State of the Union address late Tuesday, Obama also called on US lawmakers to this year begin to work on ending the US embargo on the Caribbean island.