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US to Return Gitmo to Cuba, Transition Period Needed – Ex-Defense Official

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The United States will eventually return Guantanamo Bay base to Cuba as part of the normalization of relations, but a transition period of up to 10 years may be needed, a former senior defense official during the Reagan administration, Lawrence Korb, told Sputnik on Friday.

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"Relations are going to be normalized; it is just a question of how long it will take… You are not going to undo 50-60 years of problems overnight, but the key thing is that we are moving in the right direction," Lawrence Korb said.

Korb cited an example of the US-China reset, which took around eight years after the first steps toward normalization by President Richard Nixon in 1971 until relations were completely restored under Jimmy Carter.

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The United States closed its embassy in Havana in 1961, severing diplomatic ties with the island nation after a Socialist government came to power and allied itself with the former Soviet Union. Washington kept an unofficial Interests Section presence in the country during that time.

In December 2014, US President Barack Obama announced that his administration would pursue a path toward normalizing relations with Cuba.

However, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had no intention of currently altering its existing lease arrangement regarding its naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

"I think that eventually it [Guantanamo Bay] will go back to Cuba, once relations get normalized and a lot of the differences that we have get worked out," Korb, a senior advisor to the US Center for Defense Information, told Sputnik.

Concerns over human rights in Cuba and the US continued lease of Guantanamo Bay naval base remain points of contention between the two countries.

"I think it [return of Guantanamo Bay] will see a transition period that we can work out once we take care of not less than 100 persons still kept there," Korb said, adding that this period may take around 10 years.

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The Guantanamo Bay prison now houses 116 prisoners. It has been widely criticized around the world for the use of torture by prison personnel.

The United States has been leasing Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay territory since 1903.

Beginning in 1959, when US-Cuban relations deteriorated, Havana repeatedly protested the US presence on its territory, and stopped accepting payment.

In Late January 2015, Cuban President Raul Castro called on the United States to return the Guantanamo Bay area to Cuba.

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