January 20, 2018 / 1:20 AM / a year ago

Cuba, U.S. hold talks on law enforcement despite tensions

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban and U.S. officials concluded on Friday a week of talks on law enforcement cooperation in Washington with a meeting on the combat against illicit drug trafficking, at a time of heightened tensions between the old Cold War foes.

The talks show the countries continue to cooperate in some areas despite Republican U.S. President Donald Trump having a tougher stance on the Communist-run island than his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, as well as an ongoing crisis over alleged health attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

“The meeting took place in an ambiance of respect and professionalism,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement. “Both parties shared the view on the usefulness of the meeting and agreed to maintain the talks in the future.”

This was the fourth technical exchange on the fight against drug trafficking since Cuban and U.S. authorities established the law enforcement dialogue framework in November 2015.

Over the past week, Cuban and U.S. officials have also held talks in Washington on cybersecurity and preventing terrorism, according to the Cuban foreign ministry.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro declared a historic detente after five decades of hostility on Dec. 17 2014.

The two countries opened embassies, restored commercial flights and negotiated agreements on issues including the environment, law enforcement, the postal service and communications.

Those measures remain in place, although Trump last June announced a partial rollback of the detente, ordering tighter trade and travel restrictions.

His administration in September also slashed staffing at the U.S. embassy in Havana over what it says is a mysterious spate of illnesses in two dozen of its diplomats and their relatives.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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