Cuba and US agree new steps in bilateral relations
HAVANA - On Monday, representatives of Cuba and the United States updated the roadmap on the road to normalization of ties between the two nations, including high-level visits in areas such as health and agriculture and new exchanges on hydrography, the environment and the implementation of and compliance with law.
At the end of the third meeting of the Bilateral Commission, Josefina Vidal, director general of the United States Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference that these have become practice since December 17, 2014, and described it as a productive meeting, which was held in an atmosphere of professionalism and mutual respect.
The Cuban diplomat asserted that in the six months that have elapsed since the last meeting of the Commission, an increase of exchanges at different levels, technical and diplomatic has been established, which reached its peak with the official visit of US President Barack Obama to the island in March.
She noted that Cuba appreciates positively the three-day stay of the US head of state in Cuba and considered that a fresh impetus should be given to further progress in normalizing relations.
Vidal said that until September, when they will meet again, they will work to achieve new agreements in areas such as health, agriculture and the exchange of information in the meteorological and seismological fields.
Cooperation in terrestrial protected areas, which will continue the agreement on protection of coastal ecosystems, actions to be jointly developed in case of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, and search and rescue activities in the face of disasters will be on the agenda.
A new topic that representatives of both countries will address in the coming weeks will be that of intellectual property, including industrial property and the protection of trademarks and patents, of great importance for Cuba due to the implications for its world renowned companies.
Vidal reiterated that the economic, commercial and financial embargo by the US against Cuba continues to be the main obstacle in revitalizing relations, since this policy slows down the development of the Cuban people, and also affects US citizens and companies and citizens of the world.
She noted that, since November, due to the extraterritorial effects of the embargo, three fines were imposed – on a French company and two US companies; US institutions carried out 14 actions of a financial nature against Cuba, and 13 international banks implemented measures to cease operations, cancellation of services and closure of Cuban bank accounts in third countries.
Vidal viewed the Bilateral Commission as a space for both countries to put on the table the issues they're interested in with regard to their relationship, especially in what lies ahead towards normalizing ties.
A press release from the US Embassy in Havana following the meeting of the Bilateral Commission acknowledged that there have been significant steps towards greater cooperation in environmental protection, civil aviation, direct mail, port and maritime security, health, agriculture, educational and cultural exchanges, and regulatory issues.
Photo: Director General of the United States Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal