March 17, 2015 / 2:38 PM / 3 years ago

Latest Cuba-U.S. talks on diplomatic ties end after one day

HAVANA (Reuters) - The latest talks between Cuba and the United States on restoring diplomatic relations concluded after one day, Cuba said on Tuesday without disclosing what may have been agreed.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson appears at a news conference during talks between the U.S. and Cuba at the State Department in Washington February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson met in Havana on Monday with Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry’s chief of U.S. affairs, in what had been described as open-ended talks that could last a few days.

The talks ended after just one day, Cuba’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“At the end of the meeting, which took place in a professional climate, the two delegations agreed to maintain communication in the future as part of this process,” the statement said.

The former Cold War rivals severed diplomatic ties in 1961 and after decades of animosity announced in December they would seek to normalize relations. Jacobson and Vidal led their respective delegations with intense media coverage in Havana in January and in Washington in February, but reporters were excluded this time.

U.S. officials had described Monday’s session as private discussions that did not qualify as a third round of negotiations.

Before agreeing to restore ties, Cuba wants to be removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and also to find a bank willing to handle transactions for its diplomatic post in Washington.

For its part, the United States wants to increase staff at its mission in Havana and have unrestricted travel for its diplomats on the island.

Both countries reported progress after their meetings in January and February. Then on March 9 the United States declared Venezuela a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country, drawing rebukes from left-leaning governments in Latin America. Venezuela has replaced the Soviet Union as Cuba’s main benefactor.

U.S. officials have said the Venezuela issue should not affect the Cuba talks, but Cuba has fulminated against the U.S. sanctions.

President Raul Castro traveled to Venezuela on Tuesday to attend a summit leftist Latin American governments known as the ALBA bloc, called on short notice in response to the sanctions on Venezuela.

The Venezuela issue stands to upstage another summit set for April 10-11, when representatives from all 35 countries from the Americas are due to meet in Panama, where Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama could have their first face-to-face meeting since shaking hands at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta Editing by W Simon

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