WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba claimed progress Friday toward ending a half-century diplomatic freeze, suggesting they could clear some of the biggest obstacles to their new relationship within weeks.
After Friday’s talks in Washington, the second round of U.S.-Cuban discussions in the last month, diplomats of both countries spoke positively about fulfilling the promise made by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro in December to restore embassies in each other’s capitals.
The U.S. even held out hope of clinching a deal in time for April’s summit of North and South American leaders, which Obama and Castro are expected to attend, however unlikely that appeared.
“We made meaningful progress,” Roberta Jacobson, the State Department’s senior envoy to Latin America, told reporters, calling the negotiations “open, honest and sometimes challenging, but always respectful.”
Her Cuban counterpart, Josefina Vidal, indicated she received assurances that the U.S. would move on two of the biggest hurdles remaining: Cuba’s inclusion on the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism blacklist and its inability to conduct normal banking operations in the United States. She expressed confidence of progress on both priorities “within the following weeks.”