U.S. historian and academic Jonathan Hansen urged here that Washington open a debate regarding returning its naval base at Guantanamo to Cuba.

"There is virtually nobody in the U.S., apart from me and a few historians, academics and diplomats, who is saying that (the base) has to be returned ... The problem is how to get this issue into the general conversation," Hansen, who is attending a workshop with Cuban experts on the 110 years of U.S. occupation, told Efe.

Hansen, a faculty associate at Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, emphasized the complexity of the issue.

"To return the base, first they probably have to improve relations between the two countries, but on the other hand, if we return the base, diplomatic relations could improve," according to the author of "Guantanamo: An American History."

"It would be a very positive gesture that could close the prison and improve relations with one fell swoop," said Hansen.

The United States holds the Guantanamo base by virtue of an indefinite lease signed in February 1903, four years after Cuba gained its independence from Spain.

The current Cuban government considers the U.S. presence there illegal and trusts that it can recover sovereignty of the territory peacefully.

The president of the Instituto de Historia de Cuba, Rene Gonzalez, emphasized the peculiarity of the situation whereby a military base exists in a country with which Washington "does not maintain economic or diplomatic relations, on which it has an economic blockade and (which is) incorporated into the list of nations that sponsor terrorism." EFE