(2nd L-R) United States Interest Section in Havana Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South America and Cuba Alex Lee and their team host a delegation from Cuba for the second round of normalization talks at the State Department February 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. This is the second round of historic talks that could restore diplomatic ties and mark the end of more than 50 years of of Cold War-era hostility between the two countries. CHIP SOMODEVILLA GETTY IMAGES
HAVANA, 27 Feb. Talks between U.S. and Cuban diplomats opened Friday in Washington, exploring the possibility of restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries after five decades of estrangement.
The talks are part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to end the trade embargo against Cuba. A senior State Department official said Friday’s session will focus solely on opening embassies in Washington and Havana as quickly as possible
. “This is where we roll up our sleeves as diplomats and sit down at the table and make sure that we hammer all of the details out to get embassies up and running the way we have embassies all over the world,” the official told reporters.
The official said progress depends in part on what the Cubans bring to the table. Cuba has said it is linking the embassy issue to whether the U.S. drops it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The official said the U.S. delegation is not linking the two issues and that the review of the terrorism list is a separate, ongoing process. The State Department official said the Cubans should feel comfortable that the matter is under review.
“It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations if they would not link those two things.” The official also said a human rights dialogue will be the first open conversation the U.S. will have with the Cubans as soon as diplomatic ties are restarted. Last month in Havana, the U.S. and Cuba began a series of meetings to re-establish ties.