Cuban-U.S. Relations: Shared History and Values Overcome Differences, Diplomat Says

Top Cuban diplomat says two countries can overcome differences, work together

ByABC News
February 28, 2015, 6:47 PM

— -- The history and values shared by the United States and Cuba can help the two countries overcome their differences, the island nation's top diplomat tells ABC News.

Josefina Vidal, the Cuban diplomat leading the Cuban delegation in the talks to restore relations between the two countries, sat down exclusively with ABC News, following the second round of the negotiations.

"We think we can build, coexistence, a civilized relationship between the United States where we can respect each other's differences and at the same time work together on issues of common interest between Cuba and the United States, as neighbors as are," Vidal told ABC News.

The U.S. government has said since the announcement of restoration of ties in December that the best way to change Cuba is by opening it up to U.S. investments and people.

"We know that this is the way the United States government presents its policy toward Cuba, but we have another way to do that, so what we say is that we believe that no matter the differences we have, and we know that we have profound differences on certain issues, not on others, because we share a history, we share some values, we share culture traditions, between cuba and the United States," she said.

As the second round of talks came to an end Friday, Roberta Jacobson, leading the U.S. delegation, said the embassies in both countries could be reopened before the Summit of the Americas, April 10-11 in Panama. Both Presidents Obama and Raul Castro will be in attendance and it could be their first meeting since the announcement to restore diplomatic ties in December.

"We would like to see the resumption of diplomatic relations soon," Vidal said. "No matter if the summit of the Americas takes place or not, but you are right that we think, we should try and have this problem solved as quick as we can."

One of the biggest issues for the Cuban government in moving forward is their listing as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the State Department, which impacts their inability to bank at their current Interest Section in Washington, D.C.

While listed as a state sponsor of terror, they are unable to use any credit and must operate fully in cash.

"More and more banks have been fined because having operations, banking operations with Cuba," she said. "As a result of this phenomenon problem, its more and more difficult to find a bank that wants to have a relationship with Cuba, and this has affected our office in Washington, that has been lacking financial resources for a year now ... They don't have credit cards, they don't have debit cards, they have to operate in cash, which is something almost impossible to do in the United States.

"What we were told yesterday is that they have been working really hard, talking to different banks, not only American banks, but also foreign banks, to try to see if there can be a solution in the following, in the next few weeks," she said. "We hope there is a solution, because we tell them that this situation is difficult to maintain, and it would be almost impossible to open a regular, normal embassy in Washington, Cuban embassy, without a bank."

Vidal said at a press conference Friday that the U.S. taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terror is not a precondition for opening an embassy, but that the issue is a priority for the Cuban government.

She told ABC News today that Cuba has never sponsored terrorism or those affiliated with terrorism toward any country.