Turkish Press | AFP
Havana - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday started an official visit in Cuba aimed at reinforcing ties between Cold War allies whose relations have been strained since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The communist island’s official newspaper, Granma, announced that Lavrov would have an “intense program of activities” and “official meetings,” but did not reveal details on the visit, which ends Wednesday.
Lavrov will meet with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, but Granma did not indicate whether the two would discuss a lingering dispute over debt.
Russian diplomatic sources in Havana told AFP Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “building bridges” between the two nations instead of “widening the gulf.”
The sources said the two nations agree on the need to establish a “multipolar” world where the United Nations has a central role.
But relations have been hurt by disagreements over money. While Moscow says Havana owes 20 billion dollars, Cuba claims that Russia must pay compensation for abandoning it after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
From 1960-1991, the Soviet Union exported cheap food, fuel and financial aid to Cuba, which has been led by communist leader Fidel Castro since 1959.
Since then, Cuba has experienced severe economic hardship.
Relations have also suffered since Moscow’s 2001 decision to close a key Russian electronic listening post on the island, a move that pleased the United States but angered the Cuban leadership.
The closure cost Cuba 200 million dollars a year in rent and the departure of 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians and soldiers.