Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cuba Agrees To Talks With U.S.

Cuba has agreed to open talks with the United States on issues ranging from immigration to anti-narcotics cooperation and direct mail service , a senior State Department official said today, in a sign that the island's communist government is warming to President Obama's call for a new relationship after decades of tension.

The breakthrough came shortly before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left on a trip to Latin America, where she is expected to face pressure to make further gestures to Cuba, including allowing it into the Organization of American States.

A senior State Department official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, called the Cuban moves "a very positive development" and added: "It's our hope this will be understood in the region in a positive way."
Cuba had given mixed signals about how willing it was to respond to the Obama administration's overtures. But on Saturday, the State Department official said, the head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, Jorge Bolaños, formally accepted a U.S. offer, made this month, to re-open talks on immigration that the Bush administration had halted in 2003. Those were the highest-level talks between the two sides.

Bolaños also expressed interest in an earlier U.S. proposal to work toward resuming direct U.S. mail service to the island, the official said. It has been years since such service existed.

In addition, the Cubans indicated they would like to explore the possibilities of additional dialogue on counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism and disaster response, the official said. The U.S. and Cuban governments currently work together in an informal basis to stop drug runners.
Read more at WaPo