The United States and Cuba have begun talks on resuming direct mail service, which has been suspended since 1963.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Bisa Williams is leading the delegation to the negotiations in Havana. She is the highest-level representative of the Obama administration to travel to Cuba.

Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service also are taking part in the talks, which were agreed to in May.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly described the talks Thursday as "exploratory." He said they are part of the administration's efforts to improve communication with the Cuban people.

The direct mail link between the U.S. and Cuba was terminated just four years after the Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power. Since then, mail between the U.S. and Cuba has had to go through a third country.  

Despite some changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, President Obama has refused to lift the 47-year-old trade embargo against the communist state and on Monday, extended it for a year. The administration says the embargo will remain in place as a way to push for democratic change on the island.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a news conference Wednesday the embargo should be lifted. He said the other measures President Obama has taken have been "insufficient."

Rodriguez also dismissed Washington's calls for reforms, saying Cuba is unwilling to negotiate its "internal issues" with other governments.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP..