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US, Cuba hold migration talks in Havana; no new agreements

This week, Ecuador deported to Cuba 122 islanders who had been protesting there to demand humanitarian visas to Mexico

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US and Cuban officials held another round of talks on migration issues in Havana to further discussions last held in December, but no new agreements were announced to advance the diplomatic thaw begun a year and a half ago by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.

The US State Department yesterday said in a statement that the talks covered bilateral migratory accords, migration trends on sea and by land, as well as cooperation between medical officials in the two countries and between the US Coast Guard and the Cuban Border Guard.

"The US delegation restated its position that the Government of Cuba should accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been removed from the United States," it said.

A Cuban Foreign Ministry statement said its delegation again voiced its "high concern" about US rules that let islanders who reach American soil stay, and also a US policy of granting entry to Cuban medical professionals on overseas missions.

Havana complains that the policies encourage Cubans to make risky sea and land voyages and also feed crimes such as people smuggling and migration fraud. It called the doctors programme "reprehensible" and said it hurts health initiatives in third-world countries where they are working.

In recent months, thousands of Cuban migrants have been stranded in countries such as Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador after borders were closed to them, cutting off their overland route to the United States. Many have been airlifted to Mexico, where they travel to the US border and are admitted.

This week, Ecuador deported to Cuba 122 islanders who had been protesting there to demand humanitarian visas to Mexico.

Washington and Havana have repeatedly sat down to discuss both matters of mutual interest and points of contention in the months since they announced they would move toward normalising ties after over 50 years of open hostility. Last year they opened embassies in each other's capitals.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry said both sides at the talks acknowledged "positive results" of two meetings held earlier this year in Miami. US and Cuban delegations also held regular meetings this week in Havana.

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First Published: Fri, July 15 2016. 04:32 IST
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