Cuban official: U.S. should lift trade embargo to normalize relations

History of the U.S. and Cuba in two minutes
cuba usa history two minutes nws orig_00002907


    History of the U.S. and Cuba in two minutes


History of the U.S. and Cuba in two minutes 02:00

Story highlights

  • U.S. delegation in Havana will begin negotiations on repairing five decades of strained relations
  • In last few weeks, President Obama has eased U.S. restrictions on Cuba

Havana, Cuba (CNN)Historic talks set to begin on Wednesday between the United States and Cuba could lead to "re-established relations," but dealings between the two countries cannot be considered normalized until the U.S. trade embargo is fully lifted, a Cuban official said Tuesday.

The official, a high-ranking member of Cuba's foreign ministry, spoke to CNN and a handful of other media on condition of anonymity.
A U.S. delegation arriving in Havana on Wednesday will first discuss migration accords and then begin negotiations on repairing five decades of strained relations that are expected to lead with the restoration of embassies in Washington and Havana.
    The talks are set to conclude on Thursday. Most likely additional discussions would take place in Washington and Havana.
    The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 over concerns that Fidel Castro's revolution was increasingly aligning itself with the United States' then-mortal enemy, the Soviet Union.
    Last month, Cuba and the United States agreed to exchange prisoners and engage in the first formal negotiations to restore diplomatic relations since the rupture that led to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis and other fraught conflicts of the Cold War.
    Last week, President Barack Obama eased some sanctions, including many of the restrictions that prevented Americans from visiting the island.
    For the first time, Americans will be able to travel to Cuba by booking flights directly through U.S. airlines and will be permitted to use U.S. credit cards for transactions there.
    "They will be welcome," the Cuban official said of the wave of Americans expected to soon take advantage of the relaxed regulations.
    But the Cuban foreign ministry official said while those steps are positive signs, they did not go far enough and Cuban officials would push for the lifting of all trade sanctions and the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allows Cubans who reach U.S. territory to stay in the country.
    A U.S. official who spoke on background Monday said only the U.S. Congress could change those laws.
    The U.S. official said the State Department negotiators, led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, will argue that caps on diplomats stationed in Havana should be lifted to increase staffing numbers, as should the restrictions currently placed on U.S. diplomats that forbid them traveling more than 25 miles from the interests section.
    Cubans should also have unfettered access to a future U.S. embassy, the official said.
    But the Cuban official said first Washington should abandon efforts to support the island's dissident community, which Cuban authorities say works with American officials to topple the island's single-party communist government.
    U.S. officials have said human rights concerns and efforts to strengthen Cuban civil society remain key U.S. policies in Cuba.
    The State Department is also carrying out a review that could lead to removing Cuba from the U.S. list of countries that sponsor state terrorism. The U.S. official said it was possible that embassies could be reopened before that review was complete.
    But the Cuban official said it would be contradictory to re-establish diplomatic relations without first removing Cuba from the terrorism list. Countries on the list face political and economic sanctions.
    Russian spy ship in Cuba
    Russian spy ship in Cuba


      Russian spy ship in Cuba


    Russian spy ship in Cuba 02:40
    In a twist worthy of a spy thriller, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship on Tuesday arrived in Havana, docking in plain view in the city's port.
    The Viktor Leonov, a Vishnya class intelligence ship, visited Cuba twice in 2014, apparently to conduct electronic eavesdropping on the United States.
    The county's state-run media made no mention of the ship's return Tuesday, but the Cuban official said any navy was welcome to dock on the island as long as it had "peaceful intentions."