Cuba Calls for Normalization Of Relations with U.S.

March 16, 2007

PARIS – Cuba’s Foreign Minister said here Monday that Havana wants “normal and respectful relations with the United States” and is prepared to sit down for bilateral talks at any time, but without any preconditions.

Felipe Pérez, who is in Paris for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, rejected Washington, D.C.’s demands for a democratic opening on the communist-ruled island.

“What is being done in Cuba is a matter that is strictly the responsibility of the Cubans,” the minister said, adding that Havana will proceed at its own pace.

He recalled that Raul Castro, to whom long-time leader Fidel Castro delegated his duties last July while he recovered from emergency intestinal surgery, has expressed his willingness to speak with Washington, D.C. without any preconditions.

“The only condition is that there be no conditions,” the Cuban minister said.

He said that although “the (U.S. economic) embargo is the main obstacle” to the reestablishment of bilateral relations, Havana has made proposals to Washington, D.C. without receiving positive replies on matters such as the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and irregular immigration.

Perez said that “the ball is in the court of the United States,” adding that despite the fact that the 44-year-old U.S. embargo on the island “violates international law” and has cost Cuba $86 billion, “we’re ready to sit down at a table without prior conditions.”

 

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