The United States and Cuba will start talks this month on resuming direct mail service between the two countries for the first time in nearly half a century as the Obama administration continues to try to engage the its neighbor, US officials said Tuesday.
The negotiations, set for September 17, will follow the resumption in July of talks on the legal immigration of Cubans to the US, according to the officials. The two sides agreed on the two sets of discussions in late May, a month after President Barack Obama eased travel and financial restrictions on Americans with family members in Cuba.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the negotiations are not yet completed.
Direct postal service between the United States and Cuba was terminated in 1963 and since then mail between the countries can take weeks to arrive since it must be routed through third countries. Previous attempts to restore the link have failed.
It was not clear on Tuesday how delivery times or costs would change if an agreement is reached at the talks.
Obama wants to improve relations with Cuba and has taken several steps to gauge the Cuban leaderships' interest in doing so, including supporting a recent decision by the Organization of American States to revoke Cuba's 1962 suspension from the 34-country group.
"The idea of postal service is in keeping with what appears to be an administration policy of moving ahead in a measured way and to try to engage with the government of Cuba," said Peter DeShazo, a former senior State Department official who dealt with Cuba and Latin American officials until his retirement in 2004.