Cuba Prepares for First US Flight to the Island
Cuba is preparing for the first U.S. commercial flight to land in the communist country in more than five decades, the latest step in normalizing relations between the two nations.
The president of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute, Alfredo Cordero, said Cuba will be ready for this week's flight as well as the influx of U.S. flights -- expected to grow to as many as 110 per day within the next several years.
"We have successfully prepped our personnel and, in acquiring access to the necessary resources, we are now able to ensure we meet the required level of security demanded by international civil aviation standards," Cordero said.
Cuba's Vice Minister of Transportation Eduardo Rodriguez echoed those comments, saying "Cuban airports have been systematically preparing over the past few years for the increase in tourists to Cuba."
The first U.S. commercial flight will take place Wednesday when Jet Blue will fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the central Cuban city of Santa Clara.
Other U.S. air carries that are planning to begin airline service to Cuba include American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.
U.S. law still prohibits most tourist visits to Cuba. However, President Barack Obama has authorized exceptions for other types of travel, including family visits, official business, journalist visits and educational tours.
Indian Defense Minister Signs Major Logistics Agreement With Pentagon
The U.S. and India have signed a key logistics agreement that will enable U.S. and Indian forces to use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters Monday at the Pentagon that he and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar formally signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) earlier in the day. The two defense leaders had agreed on the memorandum “in principle” when they last met in India in April.
Carter said the agreement is “fully mutual” and makes joint operations easier and more efficient. Both defense leaders stressed the agreement did not allow each nation to set up bases on the other, but to use bases and equipment only for “operating together when we choose to.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the setting up of bases,” Parrikar added. “It’s basically logistics support.”
During Parrikar's visit to the Pentagon, the two defense leaders discussed India’s recent designation as a major U.S. defense partner. The designation recently was announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's June visit to Washington, and Carter said it allows the United States military to cooperate with India’s military “in a way that we do only with our closest and most long-standing allies.”
Monday’s talks at the Pentagon, the sixth meeting between the two defense chiefs, comes ahead of key annual exercises in India between U.S. and Indian forces.