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US, Cuba seek breakthrough in new talks

By Agencies in Washington (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-28 08:07

50 years on, steep obstacles still remain before nations reopen embassies in capitals

US and Cuban negotiators were due to open a second round of historic talks on Friday aimed at overcoming half a century of enmity and restoring full diplomatic ties.

After an initial meeting in Havana in January which ended with little apparent progress, the teams were to meet at the State Department, the hub of US global diplomacy.

The hope is that in the coming months both nations will agree to reopen embassies in each other's capitals and appoint fully-fledged ambassadors. Currently they operate with so-called interests sections in Havana and Washington.

US President Barack Obama is due to attend the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, which Cuba will also attend for the first time.

And observers believe both nations, long mired in tension stemming from the Cold War, are keen to relaunch full diplomatic relations around that date.

But after more than five decades of hostility and suspicion, steep obstacles remain to renewing diplomatic ties.

This is seen as the first step toward a full normalization of relations between the United States and the Caribbean island which has been governed for five decades by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother, current President Raul Castro.

Ahead of the talks, both sides staked out their differences.

Cuban officials demanded that as a preliminary step Havana be stripped of its US designation as a state sponsor of terrorism - a label which has stalked the island since 1982, and which among other sanctions has complicated access to the global banking system.

Cuba says it has faced banking problems after it was dropped by its US bank last year and has been unable to find a replacement. Washington, however, has insisted that its ongoing review of the terror blacklisting should not be linked to the restoration of diplomatic ties.

AFP - Reuters

 US, Cuba seek breakthrough in new talks

A worker prepares tobacco leaves at the H. Upmann cigar factory in Havana on Thursday. Yamil Lage / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 02/28/2015 page12)

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