Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama said return of Guantanamo base was never considered Reuters

The United States will keep its naval base at Guantanamo Bay after it closes the notorious prison in a rebuff to Cuban efforts to have the base ceded to Havana.

The US has launched an historic shift in its relations with Cuba, with Washington easing restrictions on the flow of goods and people to the Caribbean island and preparing to open an embassy.

High level talks were held last week as the countries resumed diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961.

Cuban President Raul Castro called for the return of Guantanamo Bay military base in a speech this week, as a condition for normalising ties, along with lifting the US embargo on the island.

The White House has said that US President Barack Obama's willingness to close the prison at Guantanamo does not mean that the military base would be closed and ceded.

"The president does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down," said Josh Earnest, White House press secretary. "But the naval base is not something that we believe should be closed."

The possibility of handing over the base was never on the table, Earnest said, before ruling out any discussion about returning it to the Cubans.