U.S. to restart migration talks with Cuba -State Dept.

MIAMI,  (Reuters) – The United States and Cuba will resume immigration talks next month after a break of more than two years, the State Department said yesterday.

The announcement was a tentative sign of a new thawing in relations after more than two years of heightened tensions over the jailing of an American government contract worker, analysts said.

It came as Cuban and U.S. officials were meeting in Washington for two days of “technical” discussions exploring the possibility of restoring direct mail service between the two countries after a 50-year ban.

The new round of migration talks are due to take place July 17, but “do not represent a significant change in U.S. policy towards Cuba,” a State Department official said.

“Continuing to ensure secure migration between Cuba and the United States is consistent with our interest in promoting greater freedoms and increased respect for human rights in Cuba,” the official said.

Migration between the two countries has long been a thorny issue due to several mass exodus events over the years that brought hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles to south Florida.

Migration talks were held twice yearly during the Clinton administration but were suspended in 2003 by President George W. Bush. The talks were briefly revived by the Obama administration in 2009, but were suspended again in 2011 when U.S. contractor Alan Gross was handed a 15-year sentence for installing Internet networks for Cuban Jews in a U.S. program Cuba considers subversive.

Cuba relaxed its restrictions on travel in January, potentially increasing the number of Cubans able to travel legally to the United States, and has allowed several prominent dissidents to travel abroad freely since then.

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