Cuba, Russia tighten links, seek bilateral accords in Havana

By Atahualpa Amerise

Havana, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- Cuban and Russian authorities on Wednesday in Havana began a two-day meeting to manage their ever tighter bilateral relations and sign potential new accords in areas like the economy, trade, science and technology.

Cuba’s deputy prime minister and the head of foreign trade and investment, Ricardo Cabrisas, and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, exchanged a few words at the main convention center in the Cuban capital to kick off the 18th session of the Cuba-Russia Intergovernmental Commission.

Borisov arrived in Cuba from Venezuela, where he had cemented bilateral relations with Caracas even more firmly by meeting with President Nicolas Maduro and signing a dozen agreements in areas such as finance, energy, trade, defense, agriculture and health.

It is expected that the Cuban meeting – headlined by the high Cuban and Russian officials and with all the details worked out by other officials of their respective governments in the sectors in question – will also include the signing of a number of agreements, to be announced on Thursday.

The two delegations, divided into working groups, are scheduled to tackle issues of mutual interest in assorted areas, according to a statement released by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, although no further details were provided about the content of the meeting, which is being held behind closed doors.

The meeting “demonstrates the interest in strengthening economic relations and cooperation, which will become evident during two days of intense exchange based on respect, confidence and transparency,” the statement added.

The session also includes representatives from the business sector, which – according to the Foreign Ministry – reflects the interest of both countries in strengthening their economic relationship and cooperation.

The conference comes two days after the two countries made an initial advance in the tourism sector, with the April 1 resumption of flights between Moscow and Varadero being announced on Monday, a move that will enable an estimated 2,500 and 3,500 Russian tourists to visit the island’s most popular sun and sand resort.

Despite its geographical distance, Russia recently has positioned itself among the five main tourist-sending nations to Cuba and since January some 13,824 Russians have visited the Caribbean nation, albeit amid security measures to prevent Covid-19 infections.

In recent years, Cuba and Russia have made a push to reestablish the tight bilateral relationship they maintained before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 by signing new economic cooperation pacts.

The new approach to Cuba-Russian relations coincided with both the “thaw” in US-Cuban relations promoted by former President Barack Obama starting in 2014 and the antagonistic and outright hostile policies toward Havana pursued by his successor, ex-President Donald Trump.

Among the joint projects being pursued by Cuba and Russia are restoring and modernizing the island’s railway infrastructure and transferring to Cuba the technology to modernize Havana’s state-run defense firms including a 38 million euro (about $46 million) loan from Russia to guarantee the “sustainable development” of the island’s defense sector.

Cuba attributes the decline in its tourist sector to the Covid pandemic and the tightening of the US embargo during the Trump administration and both countries are expected to denounce the latter at the meeting.

At the last bilateral meeting in September 2020 in Moscow, Russia and Cuba said that they shared the same principles of international law and ideals of justice and claimed to both be “on the right side of history,” according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after welcoming Cabrisas to the Russian capital.


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