Havana and Washington get the Bilateral Commission Moving

Possible agreements about regular flights between the two countries, one of the most immediate steps

By: Juana Carrasco Martin

Email: juana@juventudrebelde.cu

2015-11-11 | 17:35:16 EST
In February, 2016, Havana will host the third meeting of the Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission, said Gustavo Machin, deputy director general for the US at the Foreign Ministry, who said that the second round on Tuesday November 10 in Washington "took place in a constructive atmosphere, as was the atmosphere of the meetings in which we have exchanged."
The steps they can take with short-term results, such as scheduled flights, restoring direct mail between Cuba and the United States, protecting the environment and fighting drug trafficking were discussed, the Cuban diplomat said at a meeting with local journalists and foreign media accredited in Havana.
The Commission, whose creation was announced on August 14 by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Secretary of State John Kerry, had this time to review the agenda of agreed issues during its first meeting on September 11, the results of exchange so far, and complex issues unresolved.
As a priority in these outstanding issues, the Cuban delegation, headed by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director general for the United States at the Foreign Ministry insisted and presented the blockade, whose removal is essential to define that there is a process of normalization, said Machin.
In this regard he said the other binding matters for the normalization of relations are: the illegal occupation of the territory of Guantanamo where the naval base is installed, television and radio transmissions, also illegal, to Cuba from the United States, and programs of destabilization and subversion.
In a constructive atmosphere the issues on the agenda of the Committee were reviewed and as for regular flights between Cuba and the US he said they could "come to an agreement that facilitates them" in the short term, defined in a space of a few months, probably before the next meeting in February. "It´s one of the issues on which most progress has been made and we are close to an agreement."
These agreements which the governments facilitate will be "concrete and tangible" to start regular flights, and their implementation is up to the airlines.
Machin stressed that the meeting, in which the US side was chaired by Edward Alex Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State, another point of interest and mutual benefit in the short term are agreements that can be reached "to deepen and strengthen bilateral cooperation" against drug trafficking.
He also said he had appreciated the visits of senior officials and technical meetings of common interest as part of the process towards normalization of relations, and mentioned the first meeting of the bilateral dialogue on the implementation and enforcement, which took place yesterday in Washington, in order to increase cooperation in areas such as maritime safety and port security, and other dialogues are scheduled on migration and people trafficking issues.
He also mentioned the expansion of cooperation or assistance to others, in the field of health, especially confronting epidemics and referred to the recent visit to Cuba of a special envoy from Washington for climate change issues.
They also agreed to continue "the exchange on the basis of reciprocity and equality on the subject of Human Rights," said Gustavo Machin.
To the questions from journalists, the deputy for the US of the MFA reiterated that the banking theme and credits are among the core issues of the blockade that are unresolved and it meant that there are companies and banks who fear sanctions and heavy fines for what is hindering legitimate transactions.
He added that there is no clarity as to how to operate the use of the dollar in the commercial transactions of Cuba, which is a problem to be solved unilaterally by the United States because it even affects the measures taken by President Barack Obama.
In a general comment on the possibility mentioned by one of the journalists that the process between the two countries might be affected by the results of the elections next year in the US, he said he hoped the next president, whoever he is, thinks of the interests and benefits of the country. "We are not in a rush, but not holding back, we are looking for a mutually beneficial long term."
On the possibility of a visit by President Obama, the Cuban diplomat reiterated that although so far there is no official approach in this regard, "if President Obama would travel to Cuba he will be welcomed as we usually receive foreign dignitaries."
Translated by ESTI

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