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US, Cuba lay groundwork for human rights talks

U.S. and Cuban officials met Tuesday in Washington to prepare for human rights discussions as the Cold War rivals continue the long process of normalizing relations.

Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, deputy director general of multilateral affairs and international law at the Cuban foreign ministry led Havana’s delegation, that arrived Sunday in Washington.

“These conversations on human rights constitute a symbol of the willingness of Cuba” to explore with the U.S. any subject on a reciprocal basis, regardless of any strong differences, the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement.

The delegations met at the State Department on Tuesday “to discuss the methodology, topics, and structure of a future human rights dialogue,” according to the State Department.

“Each side raised concerns about human rights issues, and both sides expressed willingness to discuss a wide range of topics in future substantive talks,” it added in a statement.

According to Anadolu Agency, The U.S. and Cuba have held three rounds of talks, the most recent of which concluded in the middle of March without any indication from either side about progress on key issues. That session was largely focused on removing restrictions to the number and movements of diplomatic staff in each country.

They had previously held the first round of talks in Havana in January after U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a landmark agreement to work toward normalizing relations. A second round was held in Washington in February during which both sides voiced optimism about the negotiations.

The U.S. and Cuba will meet again April 10 – 11 at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Obama and Castro are likely to meet at that regional gathering.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were severed more than 50 years ago in 1961.

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