Cuban official: 'This could be last round' of talks leading to embassies reopening

Story highlights

  • "We don't see obstacles, just questions to resolve and discuss together," Cuban official says
  • Cuba and the United State broke off relations in 1961
  • Reestablishment of diplomatic relations will begin the effort of "normalizing" relations between the Cold War adversaries

Havana, Cuba (CNN)When will a U.S. Embassy reopen in Havana?

After five months of negotiations, sooner rather than later was the answer Cuban government officials gave during a briefing to reporters on Monday.
"This could the last round [of negotiations] or we could keep talking," said Gustavo Machín, the deputy director of USA affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
    "We don't see obstacles, just questions to resolve and discuss together," Machín said.
    Diplomats for over five months have discussed the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba, often appearing to talk past one another rather than achieve consensus on the reopening of embassies in each country's respective capitals.
    But Machín said that with the expected removal of Cuba from the State Department list of countries that support terrorism on May 29 and the progress in restoring banking services for Cuba's mission in Washington, the third round of talks could lead to a deal.
    Diplomats from Cuba and the United States will meet in Washington on Thursday.
    Cuba and the United State broke off relations in 1961 but in 1977 agreed to open Interests Sections that would allow the two Cold War rivals to have diplomatic contact without the U.S. recognizing the island's Communist-run government.
    According to the State Department, President Barack Obama is required to give 15 days notice before the reopening of the embassy in Havana.
    Still on the table is the size and scope of the future embassies.
    Currently U.S. diplomats have to seek Cuban government permission before leaving Havana. Cuban diplomats have to seek similar authorization before traveling outside Washington or New York City, where the island has its mission to the United Nations.
    Both countries are limited to diplomatic staffs of 50 people.
    Last week, Cuban President Raul Castro criticized the U.S. Interests Sections' training of journalists, which he said he told President Obama in a face-to-face meeting last month was an infringement of Cuba's sovereignty.
    "What most concerns me is that they continue doing illegal things," Castro said of U.S. diplomats in Havana. "For example, graduating independent journalists," he said
    U.S. officials have said despite the change in policy towards Cuba they will continue engaging with the island's civil society and will push the Cuban government to improve its record on human rights.
    Although historic, the reestablishment of diplomatic relations will begin the longer-term effort of "normalizing" relations between the Cold War adversaries.
    Those discussions are expected to take years and to tackle thorny issues of the U.S. trade embargo, the Naval Base at Guantanamo, U.S. fugitives that have found refuge in Cuba and Cuba's single-party political system.
    "It's a longer, more complicated process of discussing of issues of importance to both countries," Machín said.