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Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 12:19

US wants to set up embassy in Cuba

By Reuters

 US wants to set up embassy in Cuba

WASHINGTON/HAVANA - The United States will urge Cuba to lift travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats and agree to opening embassies in historic talks on restoring relations this week in Havana, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

The talks will be led by Roberta Jacobson, the top US diplomat for Latin America, in the first visit to Cuba in 38 years by a US assistant secretary of state.

"We are looking forward to the Cubans lifting travel restrictions," the official told reporters, referring to curbs that mean US diplomats are typically not allowed outside Havana. The same applies to Cuban officials in Washington.

The official said Washington hoped to restore its embassy in Havana in "the coming months." After the United States broke ties with Cuba in 1961, the six-story building was closed, although it was later converted into the US interests sections in 1977.

"It is hard to know exactly what will come out of this first conversation," the official said, referring to the talks set for Wednesday and Thursday. "I am not oblivious to the weight of history."

President Barack Obama reset Cuba policy on Dec 17, opting for engagement after more than five decades US hostility toward the island nation's communist government.

Washington and Havana held 18 months of secret talks before announcing they would re-establish diplomatic ties and exchange prisoners.

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