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U.S., Cuba engage in third round of migration talks

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • U.S., Cuba resume migration talks
  • No apparent decision over detained U.S. contractor
  • Talks focused on illegal migration

Washington (CNN) -- The United States and Cuba wrapped up a third round of migrations talks Friday, though the two nations apparently didn't reach a resolution over an American contractor in Cuban custody.

The U.S. delegation called for the immediate release of Alan Gross, the U.S. citizen detained in Cuba since December 4, 2009, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement Friday. There were no other details released about the status of the case from either side.

The discussions largely focused on implementing agreements from 1994 and 1995 -- collectively known as the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords -- to regulate travel between the two nations.

The Bush administration suspended the accords in 2003 after accusing Cuba of denying some of its people permission to travel to the United States and declining to let the United States open a new avenue of legal migration for Cubans who want to leave. But three rounds of migrations talks have been held since President Obama took office.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, though there is a U.S. Interests Section representing Washington in Havana.

"Engaging in these talks underscores our interest in pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba to advance U.S. interests," Crowley said.

Friday's agenda for the talks "reflected longstanding U.S. priorities on Cuba migration issues," including, ensuring that the U.S. Interests Section is able to operate effectively and able to monitor the welfare of repatriated migrants; and gaining Havana's acceptance for the repatriation of Cuban nationals who arrived in the United States illegally.

"During this round, progress was made in the identification of aspects that will allow us to enhance the fight against alien smuggling, which validates the usefulness of these meetings," said Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez in a statement.

The meeting took place in "an atmosphere of respect," according to the Cuban government.

However, Rodriguez said that the progress of the talks is hindered by the presence of the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cuban to migrate to the United States through several channels and offers a preference system for those qualifying for a limited number of family or employment-based visas.

"These components of the U.S. migration policy towards Cuba contravene the spirit and the letter of the Migration Accords," Rodriguez said. "They are also the main incentive to illegal departures from Cuba and the trafficking in persons, since they ensure that all Cuban citizens arriving illegally in U.S. territory are automatically accepted in that country, regardless of the ways and means used in the pursuance of this objective, which may include the use of violence and the risking of the lives of persons by unscrupulous traffickers."