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U.S., Cuba Work On Plans To Upgrade Diplomatic Posts


The work of upgrading diplomatic posts into full-fledged embassies means meetings, and the latest one between the U.S. and Cuba happened today at the State Department. Establishing the new embassies is one of the first formal steps to trying to thaw a half-century freeze in relations. And this is supposed to be the easy part, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Unlike the historic trip Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson took to Havana just over a month ago, this meeting at the State Department was all business and seemed like just another day on the job.

At the start of the day, photographers got only a quick glimpse of Jacobson and her delegation sitting across the table from Cuba's team, led by a top Foreign Ministry official, Josefina Vidal. These two women know each other well already. U.S. officials say this meeting was meant to be workmanlike. Secretary of State John Kerry describes it this way.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Fairly normal negotiations with respect to movement of diplomats, access, travel, different things, the very sort of technical process.

KELEMEN: The U.S. wants Cuba to lift a cap on the number of U.S. diplomats that can work in the mission in Havana, and also allow U.S. officials to travel throughout the island. For its part, Cuba needs help getting a bank account and wants to get off a U.S. terrorism blacklist, which makes banks wary of doing any business with Havana. Kerry says getting off that blacklist is a separate issue.


KERRY: It requires a finding that, over the course of the last six-month period, the country in question has not been engaged in supporting, aiding, abetting - different language - international terrorist acts.

KELEMEN: Cuba's biggest critics on Capitol Hill have been writing letters to Kerry urging him not to take Cuba off that list. As Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, writes, Cuba has a long track record of providing sanctuary to terrorists and harboring U.S. fugitives. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.