Cuba and the United States participated in the first session of the bilateral commission in Havana, which has been described as unprecedented in recent decades, loaded with motivating the rapprochement between both nations.

The instrument activated by Havana and Washington last August during the Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the island, established its functions, scope, schedule of the meetings and issues to be addressed by both sides.

During a press briefing on details of the event, Josefina Vidal, head of the Cuban delegation, told The Havana Reporter that the mechanism lends itself to a continuance of works proposed for the short term (the next few months) that was never previously enjoyed.

According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s U.S. director, both governments have discussed a range of issues at prior bilateral encounters “but we did not previously have a road map....or such an organic or structured format.”

The commission will be responsible for following up on and steering the new era of rapprochement between the two nations, a process announced on last December by presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama which led the reestablishment of diplomatic ties last July and the re-opening of embassies.

Vidal clarified in this regard that the mechanism will not debate specific issues because such matters fall within the remit of of working groups and experts.

She outlined that the purpose of the commission will be to guide and encourage the reaching of objectives which may be manifest in accords, agreements, joint declarations and memorandums of agreement.

According to the Cuban delegation, the meeting was held in a professional, respectful and constructive atmosphere that facilitated focus on items to be addressed.

Vidal said that a first block of issues is related to bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, primarily environmental protection, the prevention of natural disasters, health, civil aviation and law enforcement, including the combat of people and drug trafficking.

She added that a second block comprises questions of a bilateral nature on which the views of both nations do not concur, including people trafficking, human rights and others of a multilateral impact such as climate change and confronting epidemics and pandemics.

The third block will address outstanding issues to be resolved, initially concentrating on those relating to compensations.

Cuba is claiming recompense for economic and human damages caused to the country’s people by policies such as their signature hostility: the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed for more than five decades by Washington.

There are still claims pending in the U.S. for North American properties nationalized following the triumph of the revolution on the 1st January 1959.

In the meeting held in September, the host nation reiterated the necessity of lifting the blockade, the return of lands illegally occupied by the naval base at Guantanamo, the cessation of illegal radio and television transmissions, and subversive actions against Cuba in order for normal bilateral relations to exist.

The next meeting of the commission will be held in Washington in November.

Referring to the format of the scheduled meetings, Vidal explained that the intention was to alternate the venue between Washington and Havana, as was the case during the last round of talks that lead to the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, unilaterally fractured by Washington in 1961.

The North American delegation at the meeting was led by Alex Leeby, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The visitors did not issue any statements following the encounter, described as “a logistical meeting” by State Department spokesperson, John Kirby.

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