Christofias: Time to end embargo on Cuba

PRESIDENT Demetris Chrisofias participated in the official opening of Cyprus’ first embassy in Havana, Cuba yesterday, in the presence of Ambassadors of other EU member states in Havana.

Speaking on the final day of his three-day official visit to the island, the President said he was very happy that during his term in office, Cyprus was opening an embassy in a country that had maintained strong ties of friendship and solidarity since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

Recalling that Archbishop Makarios – Cyprus’ first President – had given instructions for a Cypriot-flagged ship break the embargo against Cuba soon after it was imposed, Christofias said it is time for the embargo against Cuba to be lifted. He also expressed the hope that US President Barack Obama will take a bold step in this direction, given that he has declared a liberal approach in international affairs and the problems facing humankind.

On Monday, Christofias had an official meeting with Cuban President General Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. He described the talks as “excellent” and said that Castro was “a fount of knowledge” on Fidel Castro’s relationship with Archbishop Makarios, Cuba-Cyprus relations and the common struggles of the two countries in the Non-Aligned Movement.

He also announced €100,000 in economic aid to Cuba, which will be used in the reconstruction programme following the damage caused by last year’s typhoons, as well as a personal donation of €15,000 by First Lady Elsi Christofias to one of the country’s charity foundations.

The Cypriot President remarked that the most important element of his visit was the signing of “so many” agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) between Cuba and Cyprus, adding that it was “even more important” that the various ministries concerned should begin offering the opportunity to businessmen and others to put the agreements into practice.

Five agreements and three MoU between Cyprus and Cuba were signed yesterday by Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou and Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides and various Cuban ministers. These covered co-operation on: agricultural issues; research and development; economic, industrial and technological issues; culture; energy sector and renewable energy source; sport; relations between the two respective Olympic Committees; and tourism.

Speaking in the afternoon at University of Havana, Christofias referred to the common characteristics in the historical course of Cyprus and Cuba, and the longstanding friendship that binds the two countries, saying that “as Cypriots, we are grateful for the solidarity, the support and the friendship that Cuba, its Government and its people unreservedly offer to the Cypriot people, who are struggling for survival”.

He added that “the Republic of Cyprus reiterates its principled stand that the Cuban people have the right to defend their national independence and advance their own way to development”.

Following his speech at Havana University, Christofias was due to lay a wreath at the monument to Archbishop Makarios in Avenida del Puerto, and then end his official trip with a visit to the Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. The President is expected to arrive back in Cyprus tonight, having flown via Paris.