Hu meets Fidel Castro, promises better China-Cuba ties

November 19th, 2008 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

Havana, Nov 19 (IANS) Chinese President Hu Jintao met former Cuban president Fidel Castro and discussed ways to further strengthen ties with the island nation struggling to recover from three hurricanes and the effects of the ongoing global financial crisis, the EFE news agency reported Wednesday.The Cuban leader and Hu had “a fraternal meeting” Tuesday morning, a sign of the “friendly ties” between the two countries, governments and communist parties, a Cuban government statement said.

Cuban state television broadcast a photograph of the two men showing Castro standing, looking rather elderly and dressed in a sports suit in Cuba’s national colours of red, white and blue, a view of him very similar to other images released over the past two years.

Castro, 82, has not appeared in public since July 2006, when he suffered an acute intestinal illness that eventually required him to hand over power to his younger brother Raul Castro. He has been convalescing ever since, but he has met on numerous occasions with foreign leaders who have come to Cuba.

The statement about their meeting said that Castro and Hu “agreed on the analysis of the complex international situation, on the importance of the visit and the accords that will be concluded between Cuba and China”.

According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the Chinese president wished good health to the ailing leftist leader and pledged that China will continue its “brotherly friendship” with the Latin American nation.

“The comrades of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China have all cared about your health and I brought their sincere greetings to you,” Hu told Castro, and added: “I see in person that you have recovered and have been energetic so I feel very pleased.”

“Our two nations, parties and peoples have become reliable friends and brothers who share weal and woe,” he said.

Extending a warm welcome to Hu for his second state visit to Cuba, Castro said: “We are old friends. I am happy to see that you are as energetic as when I met you last time.”

Both the leaders pledged to adhere to the principles of long-term friendship between China and Cuba.

Hu also met President Raul Castro Tuesday and the two leaders signed agreements increasing and deepening bilateral cooperation, officials said.

The Chinese leader arrived in Havana Monday night after stopovers in Washington and San Jose, Costa Rica. He will leave Wednesday for Lima.

China and Cuba set up diplomatic ties in 1960. In recent years, the two countries have maintained frequent high-level visits, deepened mutual trust and expanded trade and economic cooperation.

After Venezuela, China is Cuba’s largest trading partners with two-way trade totalling $2.3 billion in 2007. The Asian giant currently buys about 400,000 tonnes of sugar annually from Cuba.

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