Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has welcomed Cuba's decision to hold new
talks about migration issues as an early step toward improving relations between
the United States and Cuba. Talks on legal and illegal migration have been
suspended since 2003.
American officials say the head of Cuba's Interest
Section in the United States accepted a U.S. offer to renew talks on legal
migration and human smuggling between the island and the United States. The last
talks were in 2003, when the Bush administration complained about lack of
cooperation from Cuban authorities and suspended later meetings.
trip to El Salvador, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Obama
offered new talks as a way to turn a new page with Cuba.
"These talks are
part of our effort to forge a new way forward on Cuba, that advances the
interests of the United States, the Cuban people and the entire hemisphere,"
Clinton says migration from Cuba is an important national
security issue for the United States. U.S. officials say human smugglers have
increased trafficking operations from the island into the United States in
recent years. Washington offers 20,000 visas for Cubans to travel to the
United States, but some Cubans complain that Havana blocks them from leaving the
Clinton says the two governments also plan to pursue negotiations
on restoring direct postal service between the countries. She says increasing
the flow of mail is part of an effort to strengthen contact between Cubans and
people off the island, especially family and friends in the United
However, Clinton says the new measures do not represent a change
in Washington's underlying policy toward the Cuban government.
continue to press the Cuban government to protect basic rights, release
political prisoners and move toward democratic reform," she said.
was in El Salvador for meetings with her counterparts from the Americas, ahead
of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, opening in
Honduras on Tuesday. OAS delegates are expected to discuss the decades-old
decision to exclude Cuba from the group and possible measures to welcome back
the Communist government.
Clinton says she does not believe Cuba should
rejoin the group until it makes reforms that bring its government in line with
other democratic nations in the hemisphere.
"We believe that membership
in the OAS comes with responsibilities and that we must all hold each other
accountable," Clinton stated. "These responsibilities include abiding by the
principles of democracy and human rights enshrined in the OAS charter and the
Inter-American Democratic Charter."
Clinton is expected to attend the
opening of the OAS meeting, Tuesday, before flying to Egypt, where she will join
President Obama, later in the week.