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Dates set for Havana talks on restoring diplomatic ties
BY MIMI WHITEFIEL DMWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/08/2015 7:00 AM 01/08/2015 8:07 PM

The State Department said Thursday that historic talks to start the
process of normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba
and to discuss migration issues between the two countries are set for
January 21 and 22 in Havana.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta
Jacobson will lead the U.S. delegation at the normalization talks on
Jan. 22 and Deputy Assistant Secretary Alex Lee is expected to lead the
U.S. delegation at the migration talks the previous day.

The migration discussions, which are held semi-annually, were already
planned for January. After the United States and Cuba announced on Dec.
17 that they planned to renew diplomatic ties after a break of 53 years,
the normalization talks were added to the agenda.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki emphasized this will be the first
round in an ongoing diplomatic process. Among the topics she suggested
would be discussed are the logistics of reopening embassies in both
countries, embassy operations, staffing and visa issues.

Because there haven’t been diplomatic relations for more than five
decades, Interests Sections in Havana and Washington handle consular
affairs and other issues. They are both located in the former embassies
of the two countries.

Jacobson previously visited Cuba in 2011 when she was principal deputy
assistant secretary of state. “Since that time, Department of State
practice has been to limit high-level visits to the deputy assistant
secretary of state level,” Psaki said.

José R. Cabañas, the chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington,
also plans to to Cuba for the talks.

The dates of the talks were released on a day when rumors swirled in
Miami about the of former Cuban leader who hasn’t
been seen in public in many months and did not send his customary
message to the Cuban people on Jan. 1 — the 56th anniversary of the day
Cuban revolutionary leaders declared victory over the Batista dictatorship.

The Cuban delegation to the previous round of migration talks, last July
in Washington, D.C., was headed by Josefina Vidal, director-general of
the U.S. Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During that round, efforts by both countries to combat
migration, human trafficking and the falsification of migration
documents were discussed.

The Cuban delegation said that smuggling and illegal migration would
only be stemmed if there is legal, safe and orderly migration between
the two countries. Havana said that the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet
foot/dry foot policy of the United States, which allows those fleeing
Cuba to remain in this country if they set foot on U.S. shores, are the
“main encouragement to irregular arrivals.”

There has been speculation that now that the U.S and Cuba are renewing
diplomatic ties there is no longer a strong rationale for such migration
policies and the adjustment act and the wet foot/dry foot policy could
be in jeopardy.

Source: Dates set for Havana talks on restoring diplomatic ties | The
Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article5652996.html

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