Reconciliation Process Instituted by Syrian Gov't Makes Progress

In the presence of the government authorities of the central province of Homs and the Russian Center for Reconciliation, about 27 cities and towns of that territory have joined to the reconciliation deal, media outlets from this country reported today.

After recognizing Russia's efforts to achieve peace in the areas in conflict, representatives of local organizations agreed that the momentum of the national reconciliation process contributes to the unity of the Syrian people.

It also enables the safe return home of thousands of displaced and Syrian refugees to this territory.


Tadmur, in Palmyra; al-Amriya, Jandar and USh al-Warwar are among the cities that took refuge in the occasion to the reconciliation deal.


As part of the reconciliation plan itself, more than 110 opposition elements laid down their weapons in front of the authorities in the city of Qamishli, Hassakeh province, about 710 kilometers north of Damascus.


The unarmed elements signed an official document in which they pledge not to commit illegal acts that disturb citizen security, Hassakeh governor, Jaez Al-Musa, said.

More than a hundred opponents received last weekend a pardon from the authorities in the southern province of Deraa, shortly after they vowed to comply with the laws of this Levant state.

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Cuba Reaffirms Willingness to Continue Relations with USA

Cuba has reaffirmed the desire to progress in relations with the United States and create beneficial ties, based on mutual respect and without abandoning principles that govern the actions of the Caribbean nation.

This was expressed by Josefina Vidal, director general of the United States Division at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), also. She described as positive the development of the fifth meeting of the bilateral commission between both nations, which met here yesterday to assess the work carried out by the two sides in the last 15 months.

Vidal presided over the Cuban side in this meeting, while Mari Carmen Aponte, Assistant Secretary in the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, led the U.S. delegation.

The meeting once again proved that the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, the reopening of embassies and the development of cooperation have benefited both nations and have responded to their respective interests, the MINREX official said.

Cuba hopes that the upcoming administration headed by President-Elect, Donald Trump, will take into account as of its inauguration in January the results achieved in general since December 17, 2014, when President Raul Castro and his U.S. peer, Barack Obama, announced the beginning of a new era in the bilateral ties, she added.

The vast majority of the Cuban people, U.S. citizens, and Cuban-Americans living in the United States support the continuity of this new interaction and the steps taken to strengthen this process, Josefina stated in a news conference at MINREX.

She highlighted the progress recorded since the working group that met today was established in August 2015, and mentioned the adoption of agreements on health, the resumption of regular commercial flights and the holding of human rights dialogues, disarmament and non-proliferation, among others.

Both sides defined yesterday the steps they should take in coming weeks, before the change of mandate in the White House, a period in which high-level visits, meetings on regulatory issues, energy, intellectual property and specific actions in other fields will take place.

Technical meetings are also scheduled between the Cuban Border Patrol Troops and the United States Coast Guard.

According to the official, the first steps have only been taken to date in the economic and commercial level, due to the restrictions imposed by the Washington economic, commercial and financial blockade on the Caribbean island for more than 50 years.

Vidal has reiterated that the two countries will move decisively towards the normalization of bilateral ties only when these unilateral sanctions are eliminated, the United States return the territory occupied by the naval base in Guantanamo against the will of the Cuban government and people and cease the policies aimed at subverting domestic order in Cuba.

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Cuba and the US to Fifth Bilateral Commission

Delegations of Cuba and the United States will meet here today to carry out the fifth version of the bilateral commission between these two nations, confirmed today the Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry (Minrex).

According with the note, Josefina Vidal, general manager for the United States for Minrex, will preside the local delegation, and Mari Carmen Aponte, US assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, will do it for the US.

The document published on the webpage CubaMinrex points out that in the meeting, the parts will check the agreements of the fourth commission carried out meeting last September 30 in Washington, the capital of the US.

Also they will make a balance on the results reached from the creation of the bilateral commission in August 2015, as a mechanism to give pursuit to the links between the two countries, after the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations. The bulletin adds that in the meeting two delegations will define the actions to continue in the next weeks to go forward in the process of improvement of the relations.

In the agenda, there are included, visits of high level, new agreements of cooperation in areas of common interest, technical meetings and dialogues on topics of bilateral interest.

The report also points out, that the Cuban part will take the opportunity to confirm that the raising of the US blockade against Cuba, the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Naval Base in Guantanamo and the elimination of other politics of the past, will be essential to normalize the relations between both countries.

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Kerry Announces Plans for Immediate High-Level Talks with Venezuela

Kerry and Rodriguez agreed on the talks during a bilateral meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of an Organization of American States’s General Assembly meeting, which will run through Wednesday in the Dominican capital.

SANTO DOMINGO – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday announced plans for immediate high-level talks involving himself, Venezuelan counterpart Delcy Rodriguez and the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, Thomas Shannon, who will be the first to travel to Caracas.

Kerry and Rodriguez agreed on the talks during a bilateral meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of an Organization of American States’s General Assembly meeting, which will run through Wednesday in the Dominican capital.

Kerry and Rodriguez met Tuesday in Santo Domingo and gave speeches on the first day of the gathering, which has revolved around the issue of what role the region’s countries should play in Venezuela’s political and social crisis.

The U.S. secretary of state had angered Rodriguez prior to their meeting by calling in his speech for Venezuela to release political prisoners and respect human rights.

Kerry said he expressed during his meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart that their countries had become stuck in longstanding rhetorical battles and stressed the need to reach an agreement that satisfies Venezuelans’ needs, respects that nation’s constitution and the constitutional process.

Asked about his call Tuesday for the Venezuelan government to hold a “timely” recall referendum, Kerry said the United States was not taking sides and simply supports the constitutional process.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, for his part, said Tuesday he supported talks at the highest level with the United States, albeit “without impositions,” and was ready to resume relations at the “level of ambassadors.”

Venezuela’s opposition is seeking to recall the socialist Maduro amid escalating tensions in the South American nation, which is in a severe economic crisis and facing sky-high inflation and food, medicine and electricity shortages.

Maduro’s opponents want to force a recall referendum before Jan. 10, 2017, because in that case, if the president were to be voted out, a snap election would be held that could bring the opposition to power shortly afterward.

But if the referendum is held after that date, then even if Maduro loses he would be replaced by his vice president, Aristobulo Isturiz, who would serve out the remaining two years of his term.

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Cuba and the United States Round of Migration Talks

A new round of migration talks was held between the delegations of Cuba and the United States, which were headed by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Director General of the United States Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Edward Alex Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

During the meeting, both Parties reviewed the implementation of the Migration Accords between the two countries and exchanged on the combat against illegal migration. The Cuban delegation reiterated its profound concern over the continued politicization of the migration issue with regard to Cuba by the Government of the United States as a result of the enforcement of the Cuban Adjustment Act, and particularly the implementation of the so-called ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy, which grants Cubans a differentiated treatment which is unique in the world, since they are immediately and automatically admitted into the United States, regardless of the ways and means they use, even if they arrive in the US territory through irregular ways.

The Cuban representatives emphasized that this policy has encouraged illegal, unsafe and disorderly migration, as well as alien smuggling and irregular entries into the United States from third countries by Cuban citizens who leave Cuba legally and enter legally the first country of destination, from which they continue travelling, through irregular ways, to the United States, thus becoming victims of networks of human traffickers and organized crime, as has been recently evidenced by the situation created in Costa Rica and other countries in the region.

The Cuban delegation insisted that this policy violates the letter and the spirit of the Migration Accords in force, by virtue of which the US Government committed to discontinue the practice of admitting all Cuban migrants arriving in that territory through irregular ways in order to ensure a legal, safe and orderly migration between both countries.

Instead, the United States delegation indicated that its Government does not have the intention to introduce changes in the migration policy applied to Cuban citizens.

The Cuban delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program” established by the administration of George W. Bush in 2006 with the purpose of encouraging Cuban doctors and other health personnel to abandon their missions in third countries and migrate to the United States. The Cuban delegation emphasized that this is a reprehensible practice aimed at harming Cuba’s cooperation programs and deprive Cuba and many other countries from vital human resources.

The Cuban delegation emphasized that the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy as well as the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program” are inconsistent with the present bilateral context, hamper the normalization of migratory relations between Cuba and the United States and create problems for other countries of the region.

During the round, which was held in a respectful and professional atmosphere, other aspects related to migratory relations were discussed, including the compliance with the agreements in force, the issuance of migrant and temporary visas, the actions taken on both sides to cope with illegal migration, human smuggling and document fraud. Both delegations agreed on the positive results achieved during the bilateral technical meeting on migratory fraud held in March, 2015, in Havana, which both parties agreed to hold again next year in Washington.

The Cuban delegation expressed its satisfaction over the holding in April of a video-conference about a new communication procedure between Cuba’s Border Guard and the US Coast Guard and confirmed the holding of a new technical meeting between both services in Havana in December, 2015.

The Cuban delegation expressed its willingness to maintain these talks and invited a US delegation to travel to Havana during the first semester of 2016 to hold a new round.

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Cuba and the U.S.A. to Talk about Migration and Struggle vs. Drug Trafficking

The United States and Cuba will hold talks as on Monday on migration and the struggle against drug trafficking, within the process of normalization of their bilateral relations, as informed on Thursday by the State Department and confirmed a by a source of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the Cubadebate website reported.

Representatives of the two governments will meet on Monday at the State Department in Washington to maintain their biannual migration talks, and on Tuesday they will hold the second round of their dialogue on the struggle against drug trafficking, also in the U.S. capital, the Cubadebate Web site highlights.

Cuba will reiterate its opposition to the Cuban Adjustment Act and related regulations, like the dry feet-wet feet policy and the Parole Program for Cuban medical professionals, which encourages illegal emigration to the United States, confirmed the local Foreign Ministry.

The foundation of the migration dialogue between the two countries lies in the agreements of 1994 and 1995, by way of which the U.S. and Cuba committed themselves to maintain a "safe, legal and orderly" immigration and meet every six months to review the implementation of these agreements.

The last session of the migration dialogue was held in January, 2015, in Havana, and the one corresponding to mid 2015 was postponed until now because it would have coincided with the reopening of embassies in the respective capitals, adds an official note by the State Department.

According to the text, the Cuban delegation will be headed on Monday by the Director General of the United States Office of the Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal; and that of the United States by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. for South America and Cuba, Alex Lee.

On Tuesday, officials of the Cuban government and of several U.S. agencies -the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Coast Guard- will hold a meeting on drug trafficking.

The meeting will focus on "discussing ways to stop the illegal flow of narcotics to and from Cuba and the United States, and exploring ways in which the two countries can cooperate in this matter," reads the note by the State Department.

  • Published in Cuba

President Raul Castro had a telephone Conversation with President Barack Obama

In the afternoon of September 18, 2015, Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and of Ministers of Cuba, had a telephone conversation with Barack Obama, President of the United States, just a few days prior to his visit to New York to attend the UN Post- 2015 Development Agenda Summit and the High Level Segment of the Seventieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly next week.

Both dignitaries exchanged on the steps that have been taken since the meeting they had in Panama in the context of the Summit of the Americas, including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the re-opening of embassies in both countries; as well as on the agenda to be addressed during the next few months as part of the process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.

They also talked about the next visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States and recognized his contribution to the beginning of a new stage in the relations between the two countries.

With regard to the regulations announced on September 18 by the Department of Commerce and the Treasury, which complement those which came into force as of January 16, President Raúl Castro emphasized the need to expand their scope and abrogate, once and for all, the blockade policy for the benefit of both peoples.

The Cuban President reiterated to President Obama Cuba’s willingness to move forward in its relations with the United States based on respect and sovereign equality.

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