U.S. and Cuban officials will meet next week with the goal of hammering out an agreement to reopen embassies each other’s capitals as part of efforts to restore diplomatic ties, the State Department announced Thursday.
The talks, to be led by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and her Cuban counterpart Josefina Vidal, are meant to discuss measures needed to reopen the embassies in Washington and Havana.
“Since the President’s announcement of his new direction on Cuba last December, the United States and Cuba have seen growing communication on a variety of issues, including matters of mutual concern such as migration, law enforcement, access to information, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons,” the State Department said in a statement out Thursday night.
In December, President Barack Obama reversed more than a half century of policy toward Cuba when he and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would restore diplomatic ties for the first time in 1961 and work toward ultimately normalizing relations between the two countries.
The first step will be to reopen embassies, but a number of differences still need to be resolved. The U.S. is still waiting on its request for full freedom of movement for its diplomats in Cuba and to bring in secure equipment to open the embassy.
Next week’s talks will be the first between two sides since Obama announced his decision last month to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of terror.
Castro has made Cuba’s removal from the list a condition before the countries can reopen respective embassies.
This past weekend Castro said he would not name an ambassador to Washington before the 45 day waiting period Congress has to block the move to remove Cuba from the list expires on May 29.
After ambassadors are named, Castro said diplomatic relations will be established, but cautioned other details need to be worked out before the two nations could normalize relations, including the U.S. lifting the embargo on Cuba and the return of the Guantanamo Bay facility, which is currently used as a U.S. prison to hold terror suspects.