Washington eagerly awaits Cuba’s return to the inter-American diplomatic system, a top U.S. official told a gathering at the Organization of American States on Wednesday.
“We look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere, including Cuba, can take its seat at this very special table, in a manner that is consistent with the principles of the Inter-American democratic charter,” said Undersecretary of State James Steinberg.
“The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba and we have changed our policy in ways that we believe will advance liberty and create opportunity for the Cuban people,” Steinberg said in a speech delivered at the annual Council of the Americas meeting.
He added that U.S. President Barack Obama “has also made clear our willingness and our readiness to engage constructively with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues.”
“We must also call on our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality and human rights for all Cubans,” the diplomat said.
In April, Obama lifted travel and money transfer restrictions on Americans with relatives in Cuba.
However, the U.S. president has said he won’t, for now, end the 47-year-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, instead urging Havana to show progress on human rights.
“None should mistake our willingness to engage governments with whom our relations have deteriorated in recent years for an abdication of principle,” Steinberg said, echoing that sentiment Wednesday.
“The region is showing that democracy can deliver if government can find ways to go beyond trade and capital liberalization to craft policies and build institutions committed to social justice.”
But earlier this week, a top Havana official rejected Washington’s call for Cuban action to improve bilateral ties.
“Cuba has to do absolutely nothing, because it did not do anything to the United States,” Ricardo Alarcon, speaker of the Cuban National Assembly and member of the Communist Party Politburo, told CNN television.
Alarcon pointed to a trade embargo maintained by Washington against his country since 1962, the use by the United States of its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Havana opposes, and Cuba’s inclusion on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
“We don’t have to do absolutely anything except taking note of the corrective steps taken by the other side when they take place,” Alarcon said.