Restoring U.S.-Cuba ties unlikely to be tied to human rights: U.S. official

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2014 1:57 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The restoration of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations after more than half a century is not likely to be directly tied to the issue of human rights in Cuba, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Thursday.

"I do think that some human rights issues will be talked about in this trip," Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson told reporters, referring to her expected late January travel to Cuba for talks on migration.

The talks will also include a host of other issues flowing from U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement on Wednesday to move toward normalizing relations with Cuba.

"I do not necessarily think that we are talking about direct human rights conditionality in the restoration of diplomatic relations part," she added. "That is a legal process, if you will, or a diplomatic process, that will be fairly mechanical."

The typical way that two countries restore diplomatic ties is by an exchange of letters or notes, Jacobson said, adding that this has to be agreed by the United States and Cuba and so there is no way of predicting its exact timing.

She also said that a series of steps announced by Obama on Wednesday, including an easing of economic sanctions on Cuba, would not go into effect until the relevant agencies such as the U.S. Treasury Department had published implementing regulations.

Asked how long that might take, she said: "I am quite certain we're talking about weeks - you know, days or weeks, certainly not months."

The United States and Cuba plan to use their regular six-monthly talks on migration as the venue for wider negotiations on the normalization of relations.

The migration talks are likely to take place at the end of January and to be led by Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Susan Heavey and Eric Walsh)