HAVANA (AP) — U.S and Cuban officials are holding “working level” talks on how to respond to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is believed to be dumping some 5,000 barrels of crude a day into the Gulf of Mexico, a State Department official told The Associated Press on Tuesday, May 18.
The talks add to signs of concern that strong currents could carry the slick far from the site of the spill, possibly threatening the Florida Keys and the pristine white beaches along Cuba’s northern coast.
This is also a rare moment of cooperation between two countries locked in conflict for more than half a century.
Relations between the United States and Cuba are low, despite optimism that President Barack Obama would usher in a new spirit of cooperation. Still, the two countries have pushed to improve cooperation in dealing with natural disasters and fighting drug trafficking, and have resumed twice-yearly conversations on immigration.
Coast Guard officials from the two countries maintain regular contact on a variety of maritime issues.
“Working level talks are taking place between the U.S. and Cuba regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to comment publicly.
The official would not say where the talks were taking place, or what specifically was being discussed.
There was no immediate comment from Cuban officials.
Scientists have expressed increasing worry that the oil will get caught up in the so-called loop current, a ribbon of warm water that begins in the Gulf of Mexico and wraps around Florida. Some say the current could even draw the crude through the Keys and then up Florida’s Atlantic Coast, where it could wash up around Palm Beach.
Associated Press reporter Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida, contributed to this report.