Cuba-US ties resumption on hold

Updated: 2015-06-07 18:15


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HAVANA - The process of resuming diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, launched in December 2014, has currently been put on hold after four rounds of talks between the two nations.

Diplomats from both countries gathered in Washington at the end of May for the latest round of bilateral talks aimed at restoring diplomatic ties and re-opening embassies in both countries.

After the talks, both sides hailed the progress made during the negotiations but did not offer further details.

Now the process has entered a phase of public uncertainty. Nobody seems to know whether or not there will be another meeting shortly on resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries and re-opening of the embassies in each other's capital cities.

It seems that some issues still need to be resolved such as US domestic opposition to President Barack Obama's new policy toward Cuba.

Obama is facing strong opposition from the US House of Representatives as they announced on Saturday an adopted clause within the 2016 Transportation budget keeping the current Cuba-travel ban. The initiative, raised by the ultra-right parties, aims to put a spanner in the works and delay the thaw of relations between Washington and Havana.

The White House released a statement saying that Obama is willing to veto the proposal which still has to go through the Senate

The neo-cons and anti-Cuba representatives are also proposing a restriction on funds to block the re-opening of embassies.

Regarding diplomats' movements within the two countries, currently both governments have restrictions within the Interests Sections of each country, respectively in Washington and Havana.

In 1977, then Cuban leader Fidel Castro and then US President Jimmy Carter agreed to open the offices known as the Interests Sections. They operate as the only channel of official communication between the two nations whose diplomatic ties were cut by Washington in 1961.

Currently, Cuban diplomats in the United States cannot travel more than a 40-km radius away from the Columbus Circle in Manhattan. They also cannot go anywhere near Washington without authorization from the US State Department.

Meanwhile in Cuba, US representatives need to apply for permission and deliver their itineraries to the Cuban authorities if they want to travel further than Havana.

"We have told the US government that we are available to discuss this topic and in turn we have told them this is linked with improvement of treatment for the US diplomatic mission and it's representatives," said Josefina Vidal, director general for US affairs in the Cuban Foreign Office, to local daily Granma.

There are activities carried out in the Interests Section (of the US in Havana), like for example organizing, training, supporting, financing and supplying small groups of people who act against Cuba's government, added Vidal.

"And this is an action that is unacceptable," continued the diplomat, saying this type of behavior has also been denounced by top Cuban leader Raul Castro.

"I clearly expressed to the president (Barack Obama) that the thing I am most worried about (regarding US diplomats) is that they might continue doing the illegal things they have been doing so far," said Castro before the press a few weeks ago while visiting Panama.

The Cuban leader mentioned "independent journalists" training courses, "given in the SINA (the United States' Interests Section in Havana) or in (US) diplomats' houses" in Cuba.

For the Cuban government, these courses form part of the US efforts to undermine the government and the internal order on the Caribbean island.

"These things can not be allowed to happen. Simply, what we are suggesting is that we all have to adjust to the agreements about diplomats' behavior in the world, approved by the Vienna Convention 1961," said Castro.

On May 29, the US State Department announced Cuba's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Before that, Cuba's presence on the list was seen as the biggest obstacle to restoring bilateral diplomatic ties between the two countries. But the latest US domestic opposition to Obama's Cuba policy adds more uncertainty.