The United States Department of State says the United States and Cuba have held an historic, first Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Working Group in Washington, D.C.
The State Department said delegates last week discussed regional developments related to clean energy, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, and exchanged ideas and information on how the United States and Cuba can move forward on this shared interest.
The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Working Group participants also shared information about domestic and international energy policies, and established a meeting framework for future collaboration, the State Department said.
It said the working group was jointly proposed and agreed to at the US-Cuba Economic Dialogue on Sept. 12 in Washington, D.C.
The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Working Group is made up of officials from the United States Department of State and Department of Energy, and officials from Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Ministry of Industry.
Earlier this month, the United States and Cuba held the fifth Bilateral Commission meeting in Havana, Cuba.
Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte led the US delegation.
Embassy Havana Chargé d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis and Deputy Assistant Secretary John Creamer also attended for the United States. Josefina Vidal, the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for US Affairs, led the Cuban delegation.
The State Department said the United States and Cuba reviewed the achievements of the Bilateral Commission since diplomatic relations were re-established in July 2015.
The Commission has “prioritized and sequenced” a number of bilateral initiatives since its first quarterly meeting in November 2015.
The State Department said the United States and Cuba have established dialogues on law enforcement, claims, human rights, and economic and regulatory issues, and have continued biannual Migration Talks.
The Bilateral Commission has provided a framework to address trafficking in persons and the return of fugitives, as well as to schedule technical exchanges on law enforcement and environmental issues.
In the last 18 months, the State Department said the United States and Cuba concluded 11 non-binding agreements, including Memoranda of Understanding on health, cancer research, agriculture, environmental cooperation, hydrography, marine protected areas, counter-narcotics, federal air marshals, civil aviation, and direct transportation of mail.
In the coming weeks, the United States and Cuba expect to sign agreements formalizing cooperation on law enforcement, conservation, seismology, meteorology, search and rescue, and oil spill response protocols, the State Department said.
It said the United States and Cuba have coordinated several high-level visits, including that of President Obama in March 2016; seven cabinet-level officials; and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of US Vice President Joe Biden.
Seven US governors from New York, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, Missouri and West Virginia have led trade delegations to Cuba since April 2015, the State Department said.
It said more than 80 members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have visited Cuba in the last two years, many for the first time.
The State Department said “purposeful travel” by Americans to Cuba increased by about 75 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Ten US airlines now provide scheduled service between US and Cuban cities, and Carnival cruises are docking in several Cuban cities, “further connecting the US and Cuban people,” the State Department said.
Under the Bilateral Commission, the United States and Cuba expanded educational and cultural exchanges. The number of Cubans studying in the United States increased 63 percent in academic year 2015-16, according to the State Department.
It said more than 2,000 US students visited Cuba as part of their academic program in academic year 2014-15.
The United States welcomed the first Cuban Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow to the United States, and four US cellular providers offer roaming service in Cuba, “further connecting Cuba and the United States,” the State Department said.
It said the delegations agreed the Bilateral Commission has provided a framework for discussion of a wide range of issues.
“Where US and Cuban interests align, including on counter-narcotics, health and environmental issues, the United States and Cuba have made important strides for the benefit of both peoples,” the State Department said. “Where the two countries have disagreements, including on human rights, the United States and Cuba have articulated those differences in a clear, productive, and respectful manner.
It said the dialogues and working groups that fall under the Bilateral Commission framework have allowed the United States and Cuba to establish working relationships with counterparts, “which are essential to continued bilateral cooperation, advancement of US interests, and progress toward normalization.”
The State Department said the United States looks forward to hosting the next Bilateral Commission Meeting in Washington, D.C. “at the earliest opportunity.”