Diplomat: ‘Gitmo’ return is precondition to relations

Little more than a week before the resumption of talks between the United States and Cuba, the issue of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo is being raised again, this time in Moscow.

Emilio Losada García, Cuban ambassador to Russia.
Emilio Losada García, Cuban ambassador to Russia.

The Cuban ambassador to Russia, Emilio Losada García, told Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee of the Russian Senate, that one of the main conditions for the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S. was the return to Cuba of the naval base that the U.S. has occupied since 1903, the Russian press reports.

The two men met on Wednesday (Feb. 18) to discuss various subjects, among them the bilateral talks on diplomatic relations scheduled for Feb. 27 in Washington.

The ambassador told Kosachev that an improvement of relations with the U.S. would not affect Cuba’s relations with Russia and restated his government’s official stance that the U.S. must meet three conditions before relations may be resumed: the return of the Guantánamo base, a lifting of the economic blockade, and ambassadorial representation in each capital.

Alluding to the first round of talks, held in Havana on Jan. 22, Kosachev told the news agency RIA-Novosti:

“I asked [Losada] how realistic it was for the statements made then to turn into practical solutions and heard in this regard a certain skepticism. Because the conditions set by the Cuban side […] are fundamental in nature and apparently have not been understood by the American side, the prospect of restoring full diplomatic relations is not yet apparent.”

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee of the Russian Senate,
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee of the Russian Senate,

In his assessment of the talks, Losada was reiterating the position stated by President Raúl Castro on Jan. 18 at the CELAC Summit in Costa Rica. Castro’s direct references were the following:

“The main problem has not been solved. The economic, commercial and financial blockade that causes enormous human and economic damage and is a violation of international law, must cease. […]

“Could diplomatic relations be restored without resuming financial services to the Cuban Interests Section and its Consular Office in Washington, severed as a result of the financial blockade? […]

“The restoration of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process toward the normalization of bilateral relations, but this will not be possible as long as the blockade exists,[and] until the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base is returned.” (Click here for expanded text.)

Satellite shot of Guantánamo, Cuba.
Satellite shot of Guantánamo, Cuba.

“We are asking the United States to remove the illegal base they have in Guantánamo,” Losada told RIA-Novosti after the meeting. “A condition for full normalization of our relations with the U.S. is the immediate removal of the military base.”

The diplomat said that the normalization of relations with the U.S. “will not affect [Cuba’s] relations with Moscow. Cuba will always be a reliable strategic partner of Russia. Our relationship has only strengthened.”

Losada also told the agency that President Castro might visit Moscow later this year, “but it is too early to say, because there has been no invitation and no dates have been set.” Castro visited Moscow in 2009 and 2012.

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