Conflict, and Smiles, as U.S. and Cuba Discuss Ties

Conflict, and Smiles, as U.S. and Cuba Discuss Ties

The United States and Cuba held talks on Thursday to re-establish diplomatic ties broken during the Cold War, aiming to put the countries on a path toward normal relations after decades of hostility, acrimony and mistrust.

The sides met for several hours at a convention center here, mostly to iron out technical issues in converting their diplomatic outposts known as interests sections into full-fledged embassies, which were closed when the countries broke diplomatic relations in 1961. They set no date for the mutual reopening, a move that President Obama and President Raúl Castro announced last month, but agreed to continue to meet to work it out.

With 50 years of what Roberta S. Jacobson, the most senior American diplomat to visit the island in 35 years, called a “particular and peculiar” relationship “not built on confidence or trust,” some bumps emerged to highlight the profound differences that remain.

One revolved around one of the more divisive issues between the governments, Cuba’s practice of detaining citizens who speak out against it.

On that matter, Ms. Jacobson and Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s most senior representative at the talks, could not even seem to agree on whether human rights in Cuba were to be discussed in the first round of talks Thursday morning. Ms. Jacobson told reporters, “I did discuss that issue today” and said the Cuban response “was they have differences with us on that subject.”

Minutes later, in a separate news conference, Ms. Vidal said, “We have not discussed the issue,” leaving reporters scratching their heads. An American official said Ms. Jacobson stood by her account, while Cuban officials declined to elaborate.

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