US & Cuba Bilateral Commission Meeting Statements- Striking Differences (Again)

United States and Cuba Hold Fourth Bilateral Commission Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 30, 2016

The United States and Cuba held the fourth Bilateral Commission in Washington, D.C., on Friday, September 30. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte led the U.S. delegation, supported by Chargé d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Deputy Assistant Secretary John Creamer, and Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning Jon Finer. The Cuban delegation was led by Josefina Vidal, the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, supported by Cuban Ambassador to the United States Jose Ramon Cabanas.

The Bilateral Commission advances the normalization process between the United States and Cuba. The meeting took place in a cooperative and productive environment. The U.S. and Cuban delegations discussed the way forward on key issues such as agriculture, health, environmental protection, economic engagement, science and technology, civil aviation, regulatory affairs, claims, culture and education, law enforcement, nonproliferation, trafficking in persons, human rights, maritime borders, and migration. The delegations also discussed prospects for upcoming high-level visits and their shared desire to achieve as much progress as possible by the end of the year.

The United States looks forward to the next Bilateral Commission Meeting in Havana in December 2016.

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba

Delegations presided over respectively by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Director General of the US Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Mari Carmen Aponte, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Jonathan Finer, Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning for the Secretary of State, met on September 30 in Washington on the occasion of the fourth meeting of the Cuba-US Bilateral Commission.

During the meeting, a review was made on the implementation of the agreements reached at the third meeting of the Commission held in May in Havana and both parties identified the bilateral steps that they intend to take before the end of this year.

The meeting found that there had been progress in the areas of diplomatic relations and cooperation on issues of common interest, namely, the exchange of high level visits; the resumption of scheduled flights between both countries; the adoption of agreements in the areas of health, the combat of drug-trafficking and the deployment of air marshals on board of charter and scheduled flights; the holding of technical meetings on environmental issues, geodesics and hydrography, air safety and security, terrorism, drug trafficking, traffic in persons and migration fraud, legal cooperation, flow of persons and goods safety and cybersecurity; as well as the implementation of the program to teach English in Cuba.  During this period, dialogues on regulations and mutual compensations continued to be held and negotiations between Cuba, the United States and Mexico to delimit the Eastern Gap in the Gulf of Mexico were initiated.

The Cuban delegation emphasized that little results have been achieved in the economic area due to the enforcement of the blockade and reaffirmed that in order to move forward in the economic, commercial and financial relations, this policy needs to be eliminated, as was expressed by the Cuban representatives to the first Economic Dialogue –the mechanism created by the Bilateral Commission to address these issues-, on September 12 last. Likewise, it insisted that in order to advance towards the improvement of relations, it will also be necessary that the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base be returned to Cuba and other interfering policies which are harmful to our sovereignty and are still in force be eliminated, such as the implementation of programs aimed at promoting internal changes in Cuba and the use of ICTs with political purposes. The current US preferential migration policy, expressed through the application of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the wet foot/dry foot program and the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which encourage illegal and unsafe migration of our citizens, deprive Cuba from vital human resources and create increasing difficulties to other countries need to be modified.

For the next three months both delegations agreed to continue promoting high level visits, move on to the negotiation of new agreements in areas such as seismology, meteorology, land protected areas, marine pollution resulting from spills of hydrocarbons and other substances, law enforcement and search and rescue; celebrate technical meetings on cybercrimes and money laundering and between Cuban Border Guard and the US Coast Guard Service; as well as hold dialogues on disarmament and non-proliferation and human rights.

The Cuban delegation reiterated the Cuban Government willingness to continue moving on in the bilateral relations in the next few months and suggested to hold the fifth meeting of the Bilateral Commission in December, 2016, in Havana. (Cubaminrex)