HAVANA The United States and Cuba will meet in Washington on June 18 for a new round of talks on migration, despite ongoing tensions between the longtime ideological foes, a U.S. spokeswoman in Havana said on Saturday.
This will be the third time they have met to talk over migration since President Barack Obama became president last year, and represent one of his avenues for trying to improve relations with the communist-led island.
The discussions primarily cover agreements from the mid-1990s aimed at preventing an exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States such as the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the 1994 wave of boat people.
Gloria Berbena, spokeswoman at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said she did not know where the talks would be held in Washington nor could she say who would lead either delegation.
Obama has taken small steps toward improving relations with Cuba, including the renewal of the migration talks, which were canceled under his predecessor, President George W. Bush, in 2004.
He also has eased the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba by letting Cuban Americans travel to their homeland without restrictions and initiated talks on restoring direct postal service.
But relations cooled again after Cuba arrested in December a U.S. contractor, Alan Gross, who was working illegally on the island for a U.S. program promoting democracy on the island.
He remains behind bars without charges.
The United States has conceded Gross entered Cuba on a tourist visa without declaring his true intent, but said he went to the island only to provide Internet services for Jewish groups. Cuba has said he was part of longstanding U.S. attempts to subvert the Cuban government.
The United States has repeatedly requested his release and is expected to do so again at the talks in Washington, U.S. diplomats have said.
Previous migration talks under Obama were held in New York last July and in Havana in February.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks: Editing by Eric Beech)