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U.S., Cuba sign maritime border treaty
by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) Jan 19, 2017

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The U.S. government said it signed a treaty with Cuba to delineate borders in the Gulf of Mexico, a week after reaching an oil-spill agreement.

The U.S. State Department signed the bilateral treaty to outline the shared maritime boundary in the eastern waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"The treaty is consistent with the longstanding U.S. goals to resolve our outstanding maritime boundaries and promote maritime safety and protection of the marine environment," the U.S. government said in a statement.

The treaty signing comes one week after both sides signed a bilateral agreement to prepare for and respond to any spills of oil or other hazardous substances in the Gulf of Mexico or the Straits of Florida.

Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 started easing a 54-year trade embargo on Cuba, which led eventually to the reopening of an embassy in Havana. Obama in the waning days of his tenure has worked to open the doors to Cuba just as President-elect Donald Trump vows to shut the doors again.

Obama issued an executive directive last year that could open Cuba to a role in institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which Washington said could provide an advantage to the Cuban economy. Trump, meanwhile, has vowed to undo some of the president's actions once in office.

Estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey last year found there were about 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the form of undiscovered, technically recoverable, reserves in Cuba.

A U.S. role in Cuban waters is not novel under the Obama administration. Near the beginning of his second term in office, personnel from the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Coast Guard examined safety systems, the blowout preventer and other equipment on a rig planned by Spanish energy company Repsol for Cuban waters

The inspection came at the invitation of Repsol.

A group of U.S. House of Representative lawmakers, all of Cuban descent, was critical of Repsol at the time, saying its plans constitute work "with a state sponsor of terrorism."

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