Cuba’s removal from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism would be key to restoring formal diplomatic relations between the two nations, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ US Affairs Director Josefina Vidal said in remarks published on Saturday.
Vidal said that even if the two nations do restore relations, severed since 1961, the reopening of embassies in their respective nations could be delayed until a related problem involving Cuba’s access to US banks is resolved.
Vidal made the comments to Cuba’s state-run news outlets after a second round of talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson in Washington on Friday.
Jacobson expressed optimism at the end of the talks that relations could be formally restored before the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10 and 11.
Cuba is to attend the summit for the first time and US President Barack Obama also plans to go.
However, Vidal stressed the importance to Cuba of removing it from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism before diplomatic ties are restored.
“For example, if in a few weeks we receive some satisfactory news regarding Cuba’s removal from the terrorist list, I think we can then begin to talk about how to formalize the re-establishment of relations,” she said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said the US Department of State would review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and reach its own conclusions, but that the review is a separate process and not a subject of the negotiations with Cuba.
If that issue is resolved in Cuba’s favor, Vidal said the reopening of the embassies might still be put off until Cuba regains access to the US banking system, which it needs to finance its embassy operations.
It lost its US banker in 2013 and has not found a replacement, in large part because of its presence on the US terror list.
“In our view, everything does not have to go into a package,” Vidal said.
Relations could be restored through an exchange of diplomatic notes or letters, without the banking problem having been resolved, she said.
“In a scenario of that nature one could say: ‘OK, relations are restored,’ and the opening of the embassies are deferred until there are appropriate conditions for the functioning of the new mission,” she added.
Asked about Jacobson’s optimism that an agreement can be reached by the summit, Vidal said: “If she said that, evidently perhaps they have reasons to think that by that date the banking situation will have been resolved.”
Vidal said that in the meantime officials from the US Treasury and its departments of state and commerce would visit Cuba to explain the measures the US has taken to ease travel and trade restrictions.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro took the world by surprise in December last year when they announced their decision to restore relations and end more than 50 years of enmity.
The talks in Washington on Friday followed an initial round in Havana last month.
No date has been set for the next round.
AFP, Havana, Taipei Times
March 2, 2015