The State Department says U.S. diplomats are holding talks with officials of
Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington on possible follow-up measures to steps
President Barack Obama took earlier this month to ease restrictions on the
island nation. The Obama administration says it wants to see an easing of
political conditions by the Havana government.
The State Department says
its top official for Latin America met with the head of Cuba's diplomatic
interests section in Washington on Monday for the second time in as many weeks
for exploratory talks on prospects for improving the historically-chilly U.S.
Two weeks ago, on the eve of the Summit of the
Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama eased travel restrictions and
remittance rules for U.S. citizens with relatives in Cuba in keeping with the
new administration's stated commitment to reach out to U.S. adversaries.
State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood
says Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon
called in Cuban mission chief Jorge Bolanos to brief him on those actions on
April 13, the day they were announced, and said they had a follow-up discussion
on Monday at an undisclosed location here in Washington.
Wood said the
Obama administration would like to see the communist government in Havana
reciprocate the U.S. opening with steps to ease political restrictions in Cuba.
"We want to see the Cuban government reciprocate," said Robert Wood.
"We'd like to see a release of political prisoners. There are a host of steps
that the Cuban government can take and we'd like to see. I'm not going to put
conditionality on things. Clearly there are some steps the Cuban government
needs to do with regard to its own people, allowing the Cuban people to have
some of the freedoms that are enjoyed in other countries in the
Wood downplayed the significance of Shannon's meetings with
the Cuban official, saying the two sides have had discussions in the past when
events warranted them. But another official here said he was aware of only one
such meeting during the last year of the Bush administration.The New
newspaper reported on Monday that a series of such meetings are
being planned to determine whether the two governments could open formal talks
on a variety of issues - including migration, drug trafficking and regional
After easing the U.S. embargo on Cuba two weeks ago,
President Obama said that it was up to Cuba to take the next step.
President Raul Castro said in apparent response that his government is ready for
dialogue all issues, including human rights, provided that the talks occur on
equal terms and without challenging Cuba's sovereignty.
leader Fidel Castro later appeared to roll-back his brother's overture, saying
his stated willingness to discuss all issues had been misinterpreted.
United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961, but
they opened interests sections in each others' capitals in 1977 to handle
consular issues, visas and other routine matters. The interests sections are
technically part of the Swiss embassies in Havana and Washington.