The United States and Cuba will begin a third round of high-level talks Monday, aimed at reaching agreement by next month to open embassies in each other’s capital, a senior State Department official said Friday.
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will travel to Havana to meet with her Cuban government counterpart, Josefina Vidal. The talks — a late January round in Havana and a second session last month in Washington — followed the Dec. 17 announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro that they had agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and normalize bilateral ties after more than a half-century of official estrangement.
Havana has said it sees no point in having diplomatic relations until the United States removes Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama has ordered the State Department to review the list and recommend a course of action.
Assuming a positive outcome, actual removal from the list then requires a 45-day waiting period, but the administration has said it believes an announced decision by Obama should be enough for a bilateral agreement.
“The president said recently that he still thinks this can be done by April and the summit,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under rules imposed by the State Department. Both Obama and Castro plan to attend the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama.
The two governments have already begun separate bilateral talks on new agreements on civil aviation and human trafficking, and plan to begin a “human rights dialogue” by the end of this month.
“From the day this began, I never believed that it would be easy or fast or wouldn’t take more than a few meetings,” the senior official said. “It’s going about as I expected in terms of pace. . . . I think we’re making very good progress.”
The administration was “disappointed” with a statement of support Cuba issued for Venezuela, whose government has charged the United States with plotting to overthrow it. Obama this week ordered sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials it said engaged in human rights abuses and corruption.
But U.S.-Cuban disagreements on Venezuela, the official said, “will not have an impact on these conversations moving forward.”