US diplomats’ meeting with Cuban dissidents won’t affect ties: Cuba

February 22nd, 2010 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, Feb 22 (IANS/EFE) Cuban National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon said he did not believe that the meeting of US diplomats with Cuban dissidents earlier this weekend, after talks with the government about immigration, ruptures the dialogue between Washington and Havana.
“I don’t think that it has to interrupt it, except if in his inclination for change (Barack) Obama is going to do the same thing that (George W.) Bush did previously,” Alarcon said in response to questions from reporters about the future of the bilateral dialogue.

“We’re in favour of continuing the conversations … Not only on these immigration questions, but also on any other issue, but on the basis of respect,” Alarcon said.

The incident was a “very revealing demonstration” of how with the Obama administration “there has been little change in the US attitude of continuing trying to promote subversion and intervening in the internal affairs of Cuba,” Alarcon said.

The Cuban government Saturday blasted US diplomats for meeting Friday night in Havana with members of the opposition.

The organising of the meeting by the Americans amounted to “offensive conduct against the Cuban authorities and people”, the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that “it points to their lack of real will to improve links”.

The US deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Craig Kelly, had been warned since he arrived in Cuba about “rejecting (the chance) of taking advantage of his brief stay to organise a provocative event”, the foreign ministry said.

Cuba, nevertheless, is willing to “maintain a respectful dialogue on any issue with the US government, provided that it is between equals, without impairing independence, sovereignty and self-determination”, the ministry said.

Kelly, the most senior US official to visit Cuba since Obama entered the White House, headed the US delegation in migration talks with Cuban officials Friday in Havana.

The US diplomat also raised the matter of American contractor Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Havana since Dec 4 on espionage charges, on the sidelines of the meeting, the US State Department said in a press release.

The 60-year-old Gross is a subcontractor working for a Maryland-based global-development company on a US Agency for International Development project.

Gross was distributing laptop computers, cellular phones and other communication equipments on the communist-ruled island.

Though the US and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, the two countries established interests sections in each other’s capitals in 1977.

The bilateral migration talks held Friday focused on implementation of the US-Cuba migration accords, marking the second such meeting since a 2009 decision to renew the negotiations.

–IANS/EFE

snb/dg

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