Cuban Envoy: Obama-Castro Greeting Ushers No Change in Ties

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Cuba’s ambassador in Tehran said the greeting of the US president with his Cuban counterpart during the memorial service of South African iconic leader could not be heralded as a thaw in hostile bilateral relations.

Cuban Envoy: Obama-Castro Greeting Ushers No Change in Ties

Vladimir Andrés Gonzalez Quesada who was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of some ambassadors representing member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America (ALBA) in Tehran, said that the greeting in question was quite accidental, and not at all controversial.

“When (the US President Barack) Obama finished his address at the commemoration service he had to greet the officials who were present at the VIP pavilion, and our country’s president was one of the first people whom he faced and greeted with,” he said.

At Tuesday's memorial for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, President Obama was on his way to the podium to deliver a speech when he briefly greeted several world leaders. Among them was Raul Castro, current president of Cuba and brother of Fidel. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries for less than 10 seconds.

This raised speculations that it could thaw the deep freeze in the two countries’ relations which has been in place ever since the Cuban revolution.

The two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since soon after Fidel Castro led a 1959 revolution to victory and aligned his country with the Soviet Union. Fidel handed over power to his brother Raul in 2008.

It was believed to be the first such encounter between the leaders of the two countries since Bill Clinton gripped Fidel Castro’s hand in 2000 at a United Nations lunch.

Ambassador Quesada further stressed, “The greeting was not controversial by any means, and did not carry any meaningful political message for us.”

“If the United States truly intends to improve bilateral relations it needs to fundamentally change its policies towards our island country. On various occasions, we have announced our readiness to begin talks, but have also reiterated that for this purpose the US should have no preconditions and recognize our independence and sovereignty," added the Cuban envoy.

The US government has kept a tight blockade on the island nation, but in 2011 eased the embargo on the island by allowing some Americans to travel there. But the US freeze on Cuba, dating back to when Fidel Castro took power, largely has remained in place.

Ambassadors representing some member states of ALBA convened a meeting in Tehran on Sunday to mark the 9th anniversary of formation of the regional organization.

The meeting, held at the University of Tehran, was attended by the Venezuelan and Cuban ambassadors to the Islamic Republic.

During the gathering, Latin American envoys and several senior officials exchanged viewpoints on the role of ALBA in international equations, and also discussed issues pertaining to oil industry, colonialism and imperialism.

Founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in December 2004, the ALBA is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of Latin American and the Caribbean countries.

The organization is associated with socialist and social democratic governments wishing to consolidate regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid.

Its nine member countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela and Saint Lucia.

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