For the first time, a Cuban delegation will attend the annual Caribbean regional security conference in Jamaica later this month.
Cuba’s decision to attend the three-day conference in Jamaica, which is co-sponsored by the U.S. military’s Southern Command, follows several small forms of military engagement since the normalization of relations in December 2014.
The conference is scheduled to begin on Jan. 27.
“We’ve normalized now and, regardless of how we think of each other in terms of politics, we have very, very common challenges,” Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of Southern Command, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Military and security officials from 16 Caribbean nations as well as Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the U.S. are expected to attend. Cuba has not yet said who it will send as a it’s representative to the conference.
In the past, the conference has focused on collaborative efforts to combat drug trafficking as well as weapons and human smuggling.
It is unclear if the nations will address the presence of the U.S. navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Obama administration has called for the closure of the Guantanamo detention center, but said that the future of Guantanamo Bay base, which occupies 45 square miles, is not a topic of discussion.
Kelly told the Associated Press that he would like to see the naval station at Guantanamo remain open even if the detention center closes because of the it’s importance as a deepwater port in the Caribbean. Kelly suggested that the facility could be run jointly, offering employment opportunities to the local Cuban population, but stated that he hasn’t discussed this idea with anyone in the Castro government.