Cuban president touts ‘a good visit’ with Russian PM Medvedev
Cuban President Raul Castro expressed satisfaction with his talks this week with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the daily Granma newspaper reported on Saturday.
“It has been a good visit,” said Castro after Medvedev wrapped up his three-day visit to Cuba, where he met with the Cuban leaders and his brother, revolutionary icon Fidel.
During his visit, the Russian leader signed 10 bilateral agreements, including a new accord governing Cuba’s outstanding debt to the former Soviet power, which is estimated to be between $20 and 30 billion dollars.
“We signed various important and useful agreements,” Medvedev said, according to Granma, which wrote that the Havana government also agreed to purchase three commercial aircraft from Russia.
Talks between the two former Cold War allies reportedly also covered trade and energy exploration, as cash-strapped Cuba attempts to tap into its potential offshore oil wealth.
Russia’s Zarubezhneft is drilling the communist island’s deepest offshore well yet with the Norwegian-owned Songa Mercur semisubmersible platform.
The oil exploration is crucial for Cuba, which produces nearly half its oil from wells on land and in shallow water.
News reports said Medvedev and Castro also discussed rising food prices and world hunger, environmental issues, the threat of climate change, trade diversification and joint pharmaceutical projects.
Moscow was Cuba’s main ally and source of economic support for three decades until the collapse of the Soviet Union, but now ranks only ninth as a trading partner with just $224 million in trade in 2011.