U.S. and Cuba start historic talks on restoring ties

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Man stands near national flags of U.S. and Cuba on balcony of a hotel being used by first U.S. congressional delegation to Cuba since change of policy announced by U.S. President Obama, in HavanaBy Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) – The highest-level U.S. delegation to Cuba in 35 years began talks on Wednesday aimed at restoring diplomatic relations and eventually opening up full trade and travel ties between two adversaries locked in Cold War-era hostilities. The two days of meetings are the first since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they had reached a historic breakthrough after 18 months of secret negotiations. Obama has set the United States on a path toward removing economic sanctions and a 53-year-old trade embargo against the communist-ruled island. He also urged Congress to start work on ending the embargo but critics at home say Obama first needs to win concessions from Cuba’s communist government on political prisoners and democratic rights, the claims of U.S. citizens whose property was nationalized after Cuba’s 1959 revolution, and U.S. fugitives who have been given asylum in Cuba.