Cuba and the US to Meet in Havana on Monday

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Government officials of Cuba and the United States will meet in Havana on Monday for further discussions on improving relations.  This will be the third bilateral commission to take place between the two nations.  Gustavo Machin, the Deputy Director for U.S. affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry announced at a press conference the meetings were to evaluate the progress of normalizing relations and to find new areas for mutual cooperation.  Josefina Vidal, the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s chief of U.S. affairs and Kristie Kenney, Counselor for the U.S. State Department will lead the talks.

The talks will not include the financial compensations both sides currently have.

Speaking at a press conference Machin said, “We will set the agenda for the rest for the year.”

“We are not yet negotiating the topic of claims even if there is a recognition on both sides that these exist.”

Earlier agreements between the U.S and Cuba are now in place for common issues such as the environment, direct flights, mail service and maritime safety.

However there are many outstanding challenges which remain, including the American embargo, the return of Guantanamo to Cuba, the freezing of Cuban bank accounts and the restrictions on the imports of U.S. Products.

The U.S. does not allow Cuba to have correspondent banking relationships and financial transactions still have to be made through third countries.

“Until now, no bank transactions have been carried out in U.S. currency,” Machin said. “There is still a great fear.”

The chief stumbling block remains the American embargo against Cuba which effects the people of Cuba, American business interests and foreign entities.

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