Obama, Cas­tro rush to con­clude deals

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

CUBAN Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama are rush­ing to fin­ish ne­go­ti­a­tions on a di­verse set of bi­lat­eral agree­ments this week, less than 48 hours be­fore US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is sworn in.

The first agree­ment – co-op­er­a­tion on air and mar­itime search and res­cue op­er­a­tions in the Florida Straits – was signed on Wed­nes­day.

“Our coun­try, in ac­cor­dance with its hu­man­ist prin­ci­ples, as­cribes spe­cial im­por­tance and in­ter­est to es­tab­lish­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral ties in the sphere of aero­nau­ti­cal and mar­itime search and res­cue ser­vices,” Cuba’s Min­istry of Trans­port said.

Two oth­ers are still on the ta­ble: es­tab­lish­ing ter­ri­to­rial lim­its in dis­puted Gulf of Mex­ico wa­ters and de­ter­min­ing pro­ce­dures for the joint han­dling of in­ter­na­tional health is­sues. Both are ex­pected to be fi­nalised be­fore the end of the week, di­plo­matic sources said.

The rush is likely a re­sult of Trump’s state­ments on Cuba and those of his cab­i­net picks.

The in­com­ing Repub­li­can Party pres­i­dent told sup­port­ers at a rally in March last year that he plans to re­verse Obama’s for­eign pol­icy re­forms on Cuba “un­less the Cas­tro regime meets our de­mands”.

Dur­ing the same speech, he claimed “ev­ery­thing is in Cuba’s favour”, de­spite the fact that the US re­fuses to re­turn the Guan­tanamo Bay Naval Base and end its decades-long em­bargo on the is­land.

The views of Trump’s cab­i­net picks echo those of the pres­i­dent-elect. His tran­si­tion team in­cludes a num­ber of Cuban-Amer­i­cans, like Mauri­cio Claver-Carone, who op­pose rap­proche­ment with Ha­vana and sup­port a hege­monic pol­icy to­ward Ha­vana. In ad­di­tion, Vice-Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence promised Cuban-Amer­i­cans while cam­paign­ing in Mi­ami: “When Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent of the United States, we will re­peal Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on Cuba.”

While it re­mains un­clear what spe­cific ac­tions the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will take on bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Cuba, the Ha­vana govern­ment re­mains clear on its com­mit­ment to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and co-op­er­a­tion with the US. Te­lesur

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