Havana - Official: Cuba Ready To Talk About Gross Case
Havana - The Cuban government got a rare opportunity to put its position on a U.S. contractor jailed in Havana and on hostile U.S.-Cuba relations before an American audience Thursday when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed a top Foreign Ministry official.
Josefina Vidal, via satellite from Havana, said that while Cuba is ready to dialogue with the U.S. about the case of Alan Gross they are not advancing any formula, such as a prisoner swap. Instead, the head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s North America Division declared Havana wants to sit down at the negotiating table with Washington to discuss all outstanding issues in an effort to establish normal relations.
Vidal says that the U.S. demand that Cuba release Gross before it takes any steps to improve relations with the island is just a “pretext” not to do so.
The State Department reacted sharply, saying Vidal’s statements only reinforce the U.S. belief that Gross is being held hostage and that there is no justification for his imprisonment.
Vidal was echoing the position laid out in an official letter sent to Blitzer earlier this week saying Havana has offered to hold a “dialogue to find a humanitarian solution…on a reciprocal basis” to the case of Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years on charges of trying to subvert the government.
That offer provoked speculation that the Cubans were holding out to swap Gross for five Cuban imprisoned in the U.S. on spying charges for nearly 14 years. Cuba says the men were only seeking information that would help prevent terrorist actions against the island and not U.S. government secrets.
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