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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US, Cuba End Latest Round of Diplomatic Talks

by VOA News March 17, 2015

U.S. and Cuban diplomats have concluded a third round of talks on restoring diplomatic ties, Cuba said Tuesday, without offering details on what was discussed.

The statement by Cuba's foreign ministry said the talks ended after just one day.

'The two sides agreed to maintain communication in the future as part of this process,' it said, noting the meeting took place in a 'professional' climate.

The top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, and Cuba's top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, met in Havana Monday to begin the talks, which were described as open-ended.

The U.S., meanwhile, has said nothing about the negotiations, which excluded reporters in a stark shift from the previous rounds in January and February.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the diplomats wanted to keep the talks 'lower key.' 'Their focus is on rolling up their sleeves and having tough discussions, and getting the work done,' Psaki told reporters in Washington.

The move comes as tensions rise between the United States and Venezuela -- Cuba's closest ally. U.S. officials say the issue should not affect the talks with Cuba. But Cuban officials have criticized the U.S. over the developments.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro sent a letter of support Tuesday to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a little over a week after the U.S. named Venezuela a national security threat and imposed sanctions on seven officials. In the letter, Castro said Venezuela 'will never accept threats or impositions' from the United States

This latest round of U.S.-Cuba talks came as Cuba hosted the foreign minister of another nation notorious for anti-U.S. sentiments -- North Korea. Ri Su Yong met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Monday in Havana, as part of an official visit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

Officials close to the talks between Cuba and the United States say Cuba wants to be removed from a U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list before agreeing to restoring relations.

U.S. State Department officials have said while the two issues remain separate, a review is under way on Cuba's status and will be completed as quickly as possible. U.S. and Cuban officials are set to meet later this month to discuss human rights issues and telecommunications policies.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he hopes the two countries can reopen embassies in each other's capitals before the Summit of the Americas in Panama next month.

The U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960 and closed its embassy in Havana the following year.

After more than 50 years of tensions, President Obama and President Castro announced the move to normalize ties in December. The meetings taking place since January have been focused on making that a reality.

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