The U.S. and Cuba fell short of reaching an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations and open embassies in each other’s capitals, remaining at odds over freedom for U.S. diplomats to travel and meet with dissidents.
“This has not been as easy task given our complicated history,” Roberta Jacobson, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said Friday in Washington after the latest round of talks with her Cuban counterpart. “We made a great deal of progress this time.”
Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced in December their intention to normalize relations, and diplomats had talked of agreeing as early as April on reopening embassies in Washington and Havana. While neither side would provide details of remaining impediments, they referred to the rules under which diplomats would operate in the two countries.
Josefina Vidal, the Cuban government’s director of U.S. policy, said the two sides “exchanged views on every aspect related to the functioning of embassies and the behavior of diplomats.”
The U.S. objects to restrictions on its diplomats’ travel around the island nation, while Cuba views U.S. efforts to promote pro-democracy programs and meet with citizens as interfering in its affairs.
Jacobson, who spoke to reporters separately after comments from Vidal, said she had confidence that an eventual agreement will let U.S. diplomats “do their jobs as we expect them to.”
She said there are “a range of ways in which our embassies operate around the world in different countries,” including places where diplomats “operate in somewhat restrictive environments.” She predicted that “in Cuba our embassy will operate within that range.”
The two sides made enough progress that another round of high-level talks might not be necessary, Jacobson said. “At this point, this is likely to be the kind of thing that can be hammered out using our diplomatic missions,” she said, referring to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.