SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Cuba has agreed to resume talks with the Obama administration on legal immigration of Cubans to the United States and direct mail service between the two countries in a move welcomed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"These talks are part of our effort to forge a new way forward on Cuba that advances the interests of the United States, the Cuban people and our entire hemisphere," she said. She added that the Obama administration was "very pleased" with the Cuban decision.
The Communist government notified the United States on Saturday that it had accepted an administration overture made May 22 to restart the immigration talks, suspended by then-President George W. Bush after the last meeting in 2003. Cuba also expressed a willingness to cooperate with the United States on fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and on hurricane disaster preparedness.
"These talks are in the interests of the United States and also in the interests of the Cuban people," Clinton said after talks with foreign and trade ministers from Latin America.
"At the same time, we will continue to press the Cuban government to protect basic rights, release political prisoners, and move toward democratic reform," she said.
Before Clinton left Washington for El Salvador and Honduras, a senior State Department official said the Cuban response was a positive development and "clear signal" that the Obama administration and the Havana government are willing to engage.
The State Department said last month it had proposed restarting the discussions to "reaffirm both sides' commitment to safe, legal and orderly migration, to review trends in illegal Cuban migration to the United States and to improve operational relations with Cuba on migration issues."
In April, President Barack Obama rescinded restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans with family there and on the amount of money they can send to their relatives on the island.
The latest development comes ahead of Clinton's participation at a meeting Tuesday in Honduras where Cuba's possible readmission to the Organization of American States is expected to be discussed.