U.S., Cuba Migration Talks Delayed Until February

U.S., Cuba Migration Talks Delayed Until February

Reuters, December 3, 2009

Washington, Dc (Reuters) — Long-planned talks on Cuban migration to the United States have been delayed by two months until February, a State Department official said on Thursday, offering no explanation for the postponement.

The talks, which are supposed to take place twice a year, had been scheduled for December as a follow-up to the Obama administration's first round of migration discussions with Havana in July.

The July meeting was the first since 2003 and the State Department had portrayed the renewal of the dialogue as a signal of its desire to work constructively with the communist-run island, which lies just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

The State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S.-Cuba migration talks scheduled for December had been delayed until February. The official had no immediate explanation for the postponement.

The talks, which were suspended by the Bush administration in 2004, cover mid-1990s migration accords that aimed to prevent an exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States such as the 1980 Mariel boatlift and another wave of boatpeople in 1994.

The agreement established the repatriation by U.S. authorities of Cuban migrants intercepted at sea, while Havana also pledged to clamp down on illegal migration.

The United States has been pushing for access to a deep water Cuban port so it can return migrants safely, as set out in the accords, and to ensure U.S. diplomats can track the welfare of those sent back.

Cuba objects to U.S. immigration policy that gives preferential treatment to Cubans who make it to U.S. shores. Cuba said the so-called 'wet foot, dry foot' policy encourages illegal departure and human smuggling from the country.

Obama has expressed an interest in improving ties with Cuba. He eased travel restrictions to the island in April and said last month the United States had no intention of invading.

But Cuba carried out its biggest military maneuvers in five years on November 26 and state-run media quoted military leaders as saying there was a real possibility of military aggression against the island.


Cuba-US migration talks pushed back until February
By Paul Haven
The Associated Press, December 4, 2009