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Cuba and the U.S.A. to Agree on Direct Regular Flights
The Cuban and US governments are within hours of reaching an agreement for the reestablishment of regular and direct commercial flights between the two nations, announced Josefina Vidal, director for the United States Office of the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

The diplomat said at a press conference from the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that, since Monday, December 14, delegations of the two countries "have been holding exchanges in Washington on issues related to civil aviation and have made significant progress in negotiation."

Work has been carried out on a memorandum of understanding on the development of commercial flights between Cuba and the U.S. and soon they will be able to publicize the announcement of a preliminary agreement on this issue, stated Vidal.

In this regard she said the two governments finalize logistical and operational details to also start flights carrying direct mail between Cuba and the U.S., an agreement signed last week in Miami, which established the implementation of a pilot plan, " that in the future could turn into a permanent program," she underlined.

While making an assessment of the year elapsed since the announcements of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama on December 17, 2014, signaling the formal beginning of the process towards the normalization of relations, the official pointed out that significant advances have been achieved that mark the difference in bilateral relations.

On the diplomatic and political level and of bilateral cooperation significant progress has been made, said Josefina Vidal, who highlighted the different stages it has gone through this year with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations on July 20, the reopening of embassies, the high-level visits and the two meetings of Obama and Raul in Panama and New York.

Among notable milestones of the last 365 days is the rectification of the unfair inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

From the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry the diplomat recalled the increase, compared to previous years, of cooperation between the two governments in areas of mutual interest, such as air and aviation security, maritime and aeronautic search and rescue, the struggle against drug trafficking, against the smuggling of emigrants, migratory fraud and illegal emigration.

Likewise, she said that new areas for bilateral cooperation have opened, and highlighted the protection of the environment, exchanges on maritime-port security, the implementation and enforcement of the law and issues related to health.

She also stressed the importance of the talks initiated on climate change, mutual compensations, human trafficking and human rights, and that although it is an area of ​​"profound differences" they were developed "on the basis of respect and reciprocity".

In this regard she recalled that there are three agreements signed by the two countries in recent months, two of them related to the protection of the environment - a broad-spectrum joint statement on the subject and a memorandum of understanding for the management of protected marine areas- and a third one referred to direct mail.

Vidal announced, without many details, that the two governments are still working on a draft level, on a draft bilateral agreement for cooperation in fighting drug trafficking.

In the exchange with national and foreign press, she acknowledged that achievements became possible thanks to the professional and respectful dialogue between the two countries based on equality and reciprocity.

However, she regretted that there has been little progress in the economic-commercial area this year, with little visible results, since only two service contracts were signed between ETECSA and U.S. telecommunications companies.

The diplomat referred to the blockade against Cuba as the main cause of the poor progress made in economic-commercial matters.

The measures announced by Obama, modifying some aspects of the blockade, reiterated Vidal, although positive, have limited reach, to the point of hindering the implementation of these same measures.

She recalled that the U.S. president has broad executive powers to change this situation and expand the scope of the measures.

For example, she explained, he can allow Cuba to use dollars in its international transactions, access to private credits, trade in both directions and not unilateral trade, as it now happens.

To a question from the press about a possible visit of the U.S. President to Cuba, she replied that as it has been done with others, "we will welcome him if that visit takes place, but Cuba will not negotiate domestic policy issues to favor visits to the country, because we do not ask the U.S. to change in order to sit down and talk."

Vidal reiterated that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S. will take place the day the blockade is lifted; the programs aimed at promoting internal changes in the Caribbean nation is eliminated; the illegal occupation of the territory in Guantanamo and radio and television broadcasts come to an end; and the preferential migratory policy towards Cuban citizens changes.

She said that even with the differences existing between the two countries, better links will only bring benefits to both nations and their peoples; "we really think that a model of civilized coexistence is the best contribution we can leave present and future generations of Cuba and the U.S. and of the entire region."

We will continue to work as we have done so far to make progress in the rapprochement with the U.S. government and in building a new relationship with that country, she concluded. / ACN.

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  • William Read

    This is excellent news, and not just for US and Cubana citizens. Citizens of other countrties will be able to combine a visit to Cuba with a stop-over en route in the USA, which could be in any of the cities ith direct flights to Cuba. For example, Miami could be such a stop-over, especially as it is easy and inexpensive to fly there from the UK. Let us hope that the US-Cuban flights are reasonably priced!