US, Cuba wrap up `constructive` third round of talks

AFP| Updated: Mar 18, 2015, 00:29 AM IST

Cuba and the United States said Tuesday they had wrapped up a third round of talks on normalizing relations, but gave few details beyond praising the "constructive" environment.

Monday`s closed-door talks between Roberta Jacobson, the top US diplomat for Latin America, and Josefina Vidal, Cuba`s top diplomat for US affairs, focused on "reestablishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies," a State Department spokesperson said.

"The discussion yesterday was positive and constructive and was held in an atmosphere of mutual respect," the brief statement added.

Cuba`s foreign ministry for its part said the meeting was "professional" and that both sides "agreed to maintain communication in the future."

Unlike the previous two rounds of talks since the old Cold War enemies announced a historic rapprochement on December 17, no press conference was held.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that officials wanted to hash out the nuts and bolts away from the limelight.

"I think their focus is on rolling up their sleeves, and having tough discussions, and getting the work done," she said.

President Barack Obama is keen for the two countries to reopen embassies ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11.

But the communist island has insisted it first be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terror.

The two sides also have to iron out a number of other issues, such as compensation for American property nationalized after the Cuban Revolution, freedom of movement for diplomats and the trade and financial embargo the United States has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

Relations have also been strained by tensions over Venezuela, a key Cuban ally. Havana leapt to defend Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro`s government after Obama last week imposed new sanctions on top officials accused of an opposition crackdown.

The two sides are next due to meet in late March, when they will address the delicate issue of human rights for the first time.