US officials ask Cuba to release jailed American

US officials ask Cuba to release jailed American

Top U.S. diplomats used a high-level meeting with their Cuban counterparts Friday to call for the release of an American held in a maximum security prison without charge for nearly three months, AP reported.

Cuba alleges Alan P. Gross is a spy whose arrest proves Washington is still out to topple the island's communist government. Gross' family maintains he is a veteran development worker who came to Cuba to distribute communications equipment to Jewish groups.

Both the U.S. and Cuba also offered restrained praise for the discussions, which lasted about five hours and focused on migration issues. The Cubans said the talks at an undisclosed location in Havana were positive and respectful, while the U.S. called them part of a larger, constructive process.

The U.S. also said in a statement that its delegation, led by Craig Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and the highest-ranking American official to visit in years, "raised the case of the U.S. citizen detained in Cuba and called for his immediate release."

In its own assessment, Cuba made no mention of Gross' arrest or of American officials' broaching the issue, saying only that the meeting "took place in an atmosphere of respect."

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said a group of Cuban dissident leaders met with a U.S. delegation late Friday. Such a meeting is not unusual when U.S. diplomats visit - but is sure to rankle Cuban leaders, who describe dissidents as Washington's paid stooges.

The regularly scheduled migration talks came at a low point in relations between two Cold War enemies that have been at each other's throats for months about a range of issues, especially the arrest of Gross, who was in Cuba on a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He has been held since early December at Havana's high-security Villa Marista jail. The little-known USAID program in Cuba was begun under President George W. Bush and devotes millions of dollars to the promotion of democracy on the island.

Gross's company, DAI of Bethesda, Maryland, says he was distributing communications equipment to Cuba's tiny Jewish community, not to dissidents. Nonetheless, such equipment is tightly controlled by the communist government.

U.S. officials questioned the timing of Gross' arrest, saying he had been to Havana before on the same program and never had a problem. Gross' wife, Judy, issued a video statement saying he was a humanitarian, not a spy.

The Gross case aside, "engaging in these talks underscores our interest in pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba to advance U.S. interests on issues of mutual concern," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

There has been speculation Cuba will seek to exchange the 60-year-old Gross for five Cuban agents imprisoned in Miami since the 1990s after being convicted of spying. Cuba considers them anti-terrorist fighters who were trying to shut down a bombing campaign by anti-Castro Cuban-Americans.

Parliamentary leader Ricardo Alarcon refused to answer questions about Gross on Friday, but said Cuban authorities would use the immigration talks to bring up the fate of their agents.

"We mention them at every meeting," he said.

Alarcon added that Havana has offered to widen bilateral discussions with the United States and is still waiting for an answer.

"What we are hoping for is that the United States one day will respond to the additional proposals we have made, seeking to reach agreements in other areas like the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and also the possibility of perfecting the migration accord we already have," he told journalists.

U.S. officials have had a different take on the Cuban offer, describing it as a vague proposal to hold talks about talks, not concrete policy changes. They say Cuba should respond to good-faith gestures Washington has already taken, such as loosening restrictions on travel and remittances to the island.

In its statement, Cuba said it hopes that in future talks it can persuade Washington to abandon its "wet foot, dry foot" policy - in which Cuban refugees reaching American soil are granted asylum, while those stopped at sea are sent home. Cuba says granting so many Cubans asylum encourages its citizens to try to flee the island.

The migration talks are intended to monitor adherence to a 16-year-old agreement under which the United States issues 20,000 emigration visas to Cubans a year.

Cuba and the United States have been in a nonstop war of words in recent months over nearly every issue imaginable, from President Barack Obama's performance at climate talks in Copenhagen, which Fidel Castro called "deceitful" and "demagogic," to the U.S. relief effort in Haiti, which he termed an occupation.

Cuba was particularly angered by Washington's decision to continue including it on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

There are also perennial issues, such as Washington's insistence that Cuba open its political system to democratic reform and free jailed political prisoners, and Cuba's demand that Washington drop its 48-year trade embargo and stop meddling in what Havana considers its internal affairs.

Daniel Erikson, a Cuba expert at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, said the imbroglio over Gross "adds another sensitive issue to a long list."

"Anything that further complicates the U.S.-Cuba relationship is inherently not going to help," he said.

Tender: Khazar Consortium to buy materials for smooth operation of oil field facilities
Tender: Khazar Consortium to buy materials for smooth operation of oil field facilities
Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of equipment
Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of equipment
Uzbekistan’s 9M2020 export volume of fruits, vegetables revealed
Uzbekistan’s 9M2020 export volume of fruits, vegetables revealed
Loading Bars
Latest
Nagif Hamzayev: Azerbaijan writes new pages in the world military history
Turkey's 9M2020 export of jewelry to Ukraine doubles
Azerbaijani artillerymen continue to make precise strikes at firing points of Armenian armed forces (VIDEO)
Tender: Khazar Consortium to buy materials for smooth operation of oil field facilities
Int'l organizations miscalculate military arsenal of Armenia - MP
Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of equipment
Uzbekistan’s 9M2020 export volume of fruits, vegetables revealed
MagtiCom leads with highest ARPU rate in Georgia
New apartments inagurated in Iran
Azerbaijan's overall exports for 9M2020 unveiled
Kazakhstan to increase electric vehicles manufacturing by 2022
CO2 emissions prevented in Kazakhstan as renewable energy projects launched
Revenues of mobile operators in Georgia down
Uzbekneftegaz launches condensate stabilization unit at Uzbek oil field
Azerbaijani Embassy in Russia clarifying issue on prohibiting Azerbaijani citizens to use Pobeda Airlines' services
Uzbekistan launches mineral-based engine oil production
Trend News Agency's editor-in-chief tells CNN Turk about ongoing tension in Karabakh (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Russia almost halves jewelry imports from Turkey
Azerbaijan’s AzerGold taking measures on legal assessment of illegal mining in occupied territories
Azerbaijan starts reconstructing roads leading to liberated villages of Tartar (PHOTOS)
Georgian Caucasus Auto Import adds new export markets
USAID promotes warehouse digitization of Turkmen logistics company
Uzbekistan eyes to increase cars export by 4Q2020
Uzbekistan’s private business actively involved in agriculture digitalization
Sanctions must be imposed on Armenia, says Lebanese legal expert
Attacking civilians unacceptable, Israeli ambassador says
Armenia opens additional flights to transfer volunteers to Karabakh (PHOTO)
Number of people infected with COVID-19 pandemic in Iran exceeds 550,000
Azerbaijan's president says Armenia receiving external help, including mercenaries, weaponry
Your statements every evening about how many villages, cities have been liberated from occupation bring joy to people all over Turkey - Turkish Chief Ombudsman
Azerbaijan confirms 171 more COVID-19 recoveries
Turkmenistan's import of Turkish jewelry surges
Value of Azerbaijan's goods export by road edges down
Those unwilling to fight in Armenia buy positive coronavirus test at $1,000-2,000
There is not single surviving building in liberated cities, in these villages, in most of them - Azerbaijani president
Media of many countries unilaterally side with Armenia - President Aliyev
Israel's ambassador to Azerbaijan visits Ganja, witnesses damages following Armenia's attack (PHOTO)
We have never taken and will never take any action against civilians, says Azerbaijani president
By breaking back of Armenian fascism, we save our region from great tragedies - President Aliyev
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
Georgia, Japan sign double taxation avoidance agreement
Volume of investments to be made to Iran's Khuzestan Province growing
Auto sales drop on Georgian market
Gasoline demand to decline from 2030
Volume of cargo freight via Azerbaijani ports continues to grow
Turkmenistan forecasts total revenues, expenditures of country's financial plan for 2021
EBRD supports refurbishment of wastewater facilities in Kazakhstan's Shymkent
COVID-19 may accelerate downward trends in oil consumption of developed economies
Uzbekistan boosts jewelry import from Turkey
Azerbaijani Central Bank unveils amount of foreign currency sold to local banks
Oil demand has yet to peak for two key reasons
Karabakh conflict should be settled on issues of boundary lines, sovereignty issues - US Ambassador to NATO
Armenians fire at Azerbaijan’s Gabala and Kurdamir cities by using Elbrus ballistic missiles (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan-Russia strategic partnership to reach high level
'NATO not part of Karabakh conflict', Stoltenberg tells Armenia
Azerbaijan shows video footage of captured military equipment of Armenian Armed Forces (VIDEO)
Gold, silver prices in Azerbaijan down
Armenian servicemen refusing to fight, says Azerbaijani MoD
National Bank of Georgia talks about 3 key challenges in financial sector
Armenia must leave occupied Azerbaijani lands, says Turkish president's aide
Uzbekistan to increase electricity supply to Afghanistan
Civilian wounded from Armenian Armed Forces' missile attack on Azerbaijan's Gabala
Turkmenistan to take measures to increase volume of domestic production
Russian businessmen intend to expand their activities in Azerbaijan
Georgia's gov't places funds on term deposits at commercial banks
Turkish export of jewelry to Kyrgyzstan decreases
Gold producing plant to introduce environment preserving technology in Kazakhstan's Zhambyl
Pashinyan's Facebook post on "shortcut to victory" ridiculed by Arab readers (PHOTOS)
Mineral reserves of deoccupied Azerbaijani territories will be recalculated - MENR
Deeper recession averted in Azerbaijan, says CBA chairman
Uzbekistan, India in talks over bilateral co-op in healthcare sphere
Pashinyan's statement on absence of diplomatic settlement for Karabakh conflict reveals Armenia's intentions
Azerbaijan's exports to Russia climbs
Turkmenistan plans to attract investment for lending to industries
Kazakhstan’s oil producing company opens tender to buy spares
Kazakhstan's coal extracting venture to buy pumps via tender
Uzbekistan's foreign trade turnover decrease for 9M2020
COVID-19 cases exceed 22,500 in Georgia
Azerbaijani Access Bank's total assets up
SOCAR starts gas supplies to Turkey’s major tourist destination
Azerbaijani MFA comments on Armenian prime minister saying there is no diplomatic solution to Karabakh conflict
Former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina appears in popular TV programs to discuss situation in Nagorno-Karabakh
Value of jewelry exports from Turkey to Kazakhstan rise
LUKOIL actively working on production of hard-to-recover reserves
Iran Khodro Automaker Company increases its manufacturing
Citrus harvest begins in Georgian Adjara
Italy hikes import of jewelry from Turkey in September 2020
Missiles fired at Gabala launched from Gafan and Jermuk regions of Armenia, says assistant to Azerbaijani president (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan starts repairing sub-artesian wells in liberated lands
Ministry of Defense Industry continues production of combat UAVs for Azerbaijani army (PHOTO)
LUKOIL to apply integrated management technology in over 80 fields
Volume of exported isogam construction product from Turkmenistan revealed
IMF talks about Georgia's economic growth prospects
Azerbaijani oil prices decline
Update on implementation of gas processing project in Uzbekistan’s Gazli
Amazon announces $100 million logistics investment in Mexico
Azerbaijan's relations with Russia in agro-industrial complex entering new dev't stage
British Airways-owner IAG reports 1.3 billion euro loss in third quarter
Low-cost air company Ryanair not to commence flights in Georgia
Armenian ban on import of Turkish goods not to impact Turkey's economy, says Turkish government
All news