Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:37pm EST
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban and U.S. negotiators will meet in February for
a second round of talks on migration issues since the discussions were
renewed last summer, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on
Barack Obama | Cuba
He said no date was set for the meeting, which had been scheduled for
December in Havana but was postponed for undisclosed reasons.
The United States has said since December that the talks would be reset
for February, but Cuba remained silent about it until now.
Officials from the two countries met in New York in July, reviving talks
last held in 2003 before they were canceled
under President George W. Bush.
The U.S. State Department described the renewal of negotiations then as
part of U.S. President Barack Obama's desire to pursue a more
constructive relationship with Cuba, after five decades of hostility.
The discussions cover agreements from the mid-1990s aimed at preventing
an exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States such as the 1980 Mariel
boatlift and a 1994 wave of boat people.
The United States agreed to repatriate Cuban migrants intercepted at
sea, while Cuba said it would clamp down on illegal immigration.
The United States has pushed for access to a deepwater port so it can
safely return migrants and to ensure that U.S. diplomats can track the
welfare of those sent back.
Cuba wants Washington to abandon its immigration policy that gives
preferential treatment to Cubans who reach U.S. shores. It says the
so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy encourages Cubans to abandon their
homeland for the United States.
U.S.-Cuba relations have improved slightly under Obama, but hit a rough
patch after Cuba detained a U.S. contractor last month on charges he
brought illegal satellite communications equipment to Cuban dissidents.
Rodriguez, who spoke at a Havana conference for Cuban who live abroad
but back the Cuban government, repeated complaints that U.S. policy
remains essentially unchanged under Obama.
"Obama has not used the prerogatives the president of the United States
has to make practical changes in relations with Cuba," he said.
Cuban officials have pointed to the detained contractor as proof that
under Obama, the U.S. continues to try to subvert the Cuban government.
Obama eased the embargo last year by allowing Cuban Americans to travel
freely to Cuba and send unlimited amounts of money to relatives there,
and initiated talks on re-establishing direct postal service between the
two countries. A first round of discussions was held in Havana in September.
But he has said the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against the island
will remain in place until Cuba releases political prisoners and
improves human rights.
Cuba, U.S. set for migration talks next month | Reuters (27 January 2010)