US confirms immigration talks with Cuba

February 18th, 2010 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Feb 18 (IANS/EFE) The US government has confirmed that one of its top diplomats for Latin America will participate in a new round of talks on immigration issues with Cuba in Havana this week.
“The discussions will focus on how best to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States,” the State Department said in a press release Wednesday.

Led by Craig Kelly, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the US delegation will have representatives of the government agencies responsible for immigration policy.

The official announcement by President Barack Obama’s administration came almost two weeks after Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez first publicly mentioned Friday’s meeting in Havana.

The US and Cuba July 14 at the UN resumed their discussions on immigration, which were officially suspended in 2004.

After that first meeting in New York, the aim of both countries was to hold a second round of talks in December, but that meeting did not materialise.

The Obama administration has tried since coming into the White House in January 2009 to improve relations with Cuba.

Last April, Obama lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to the communist-ruled island.

As a result of that, the State Department, through the then-assistant secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, held meetings with the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, Jorge Bolanos.

Cuba and the US have not had diplomatic relations since the early 1960s, but the two governments established interests sections in the respective capitals during the administration of president Jimmy Carter.

On Sep 17, State Department official Bisa Williams travelled to Cuba to resume the dialogue on the possible reestablishment of direct mail links between the two countries, a service that was suspended in 1963.

On that occasion, Williams extended her stay in Havana and spoke with Cuban authorities about other issues like immigration relations and the functioning of the US Interests Section in Havana, and she also took advantage of the trip to hold a meeting with opposition figures and representatives from civil society.

Obama has said that he will not consider ending the 47-year-old economic embargo against Cuba in the absence of democratic reforms by the government in Havana.

–IANS/EFE

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