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HAVANA— Cuba and the United States will hold a surprise third round of talks about restoring full diplomatic relations and still hope to open embassies in Washington and Havana before a key regional summit in April, the U.S. State Department announced Friday.

The State Department said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson would fly to Havana Sunday for meetings with Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs.

In contrast with the first two rounds of diplomatic talks, which were announced well in advance and each lasted a single day, the third round that begins Monday has no set ending point and Jacobson could be in Havana through the middle of the week, the State Department said.

The U.S. has said it hopes that full embassies can be opened before April’s summit of the Organization of American States in Panama, which presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro both are expected to attend.

A senior State Department official told reporters “that’s what we’re going to keep working on but we’ll see whether we can get to that.”

The official also said that “there won’t be any announcements coming out of the results of this trip.”

Obstacles to a deal are Cuba’s inability to do normal banking in the United States and its continued inclusion on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terror. The White House has ordered a review of that designation.

The United States wants increase staff levels at its diplomatic mission in Havana and have travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats lifted by the Cuban government. The State Department official said both issues would be discussed during next week’s talks.

The official said the US/Cuba talks were making steady advances.

“There’s been more groundwork laid, more progress made,” the official said.


PETER ORSI, Associated Press

Source: The National Herald
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