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Cuba, US reach maritime rescue agreement

Schoolgirls raise the Cuban national flag, Havana, September 2, 2013. Cuba and the United States have reached a rare preliminary agreement on working together more closely, in the field of air and maritime rescue, Havana's state newspaper Granma said.AFP/File

Cuba and the United States have reached a rare preliminary agreement on working together more closely, in the field of air and maritime rescue, Havana's state newspaper Granma said.

Every year thousands of Cubans leave the country illegally aboard fragile boats to try to reach Florida, which is 145 kilometres (90 miles) away.

The provisional agreement was reached Friday and must now be approved by the governments of each country.

Havana and Washington have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, two years after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban revolution.

Under current policy, US-bound Cubans caught on the high seas are repatriated. But if they make it to US shores they are let in, allowed to stay and in a year or so acquire residence papers.

Cuban and US officials held talks Monday on resuming direct postal service between the two countries. In July they resumed discussions on migratory issues. These had been on hold since 2011.