The governments of Cuba and the United States are to meet in Washington Tuesday to discuss the thorny issue of human rights, a Cuban Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.
“The talks will include topics of interest to both countries,” said Pedro Luis Pedroso, deputy director general of multilateral affairs and international law at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
US sources in Havana confirmed plans for the meeting.
Pedroso stressed that the principle of “non-interference” in another country’s internal affairs would be the basis for such talks.
“Cuba expects the dialogue to take place in a constructive environment and be based on reciprocal grounds, without restrictions or discriminatory treatment and with full respect for sovereign equality,” Pedroso said.
He noted that addressing human rights “shows Cuba’s disposition to discussing with the United States any issue, despite the differences” between the two nations. However, Pedroso stressed that Cuba will also voice its “concerns” over human rights in the United States “and other places where that country has direct influence.”
Cuba has traditionally equated human rights with collective social progress like universal access to education and health care, which its citizens enjoy. Cuban authorities have refused to link human rights to individual political rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Cuba and the United States have already held three rounds of talks towards restoring diplomatic ties they broke off in 1961, alternating between Havana and Washington.
The United States is hoping that mutual embassies can open in Havana and Washington in time for the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, where Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Raul Castro of Cuba are expected to share an official platform for the first time.
Obama and Castro announced in mid-December plans to restore the ties that were broken off more than five decades ago. The decision followed 18 months of secret talks and was coupled with a high-profile prisoner exchange.
In previous rounds of talks – one in Havana, one in Washington – Cuba has insisted that the United States remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, which also includes Iran, Sudan and Syria. Washington has refused to link the two issues.
The communist island about 150 kilometres off of Florida has been subjected to a tough economic and commercial US embargo since the early 1960s.