Cuba ready to discuss 'any issue' with US: Minister

2015-08-14 21:02
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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Havana - Cuba is ready to discuss any issue with the United States, including human rights, its foreign minister told his US counterpart John Kerry on Friday as the latter made a historic visit to the island.

"We have different ideas of sovereignty, democracy and human rights," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a joint press conference after meeting with Kerry.

"We are ready to discuss any of these issues, though we may not always agree," he added.

He emphasised that Cuba had some tough demands of its own as the two countries continue to hold talks after formally restoring diplomatic ties.

They include the full lifting of the "blockade" - or economic embargo - that the US has maintained on Cuba since 1962 and the return of the "usurped" Cuban territory of the American navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

Kerry, the first secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, met Rodriguez after hosting a ceremony to raise the US flag over the newly reopened American embassy in Havana.

The flag had not flown over the building since the United States severed ties with Cuba on January 3 1961, at the height of the Cold War.

Speaking at the press conference with Rodriguez, Kerry called it a "historic day".

The visit has drawn sharp criticism in Washington from Republicans who remain deeply hostile to communist Cuba, including 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

But Kerry said he was confident the rapprochement announced on December 17 by US President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro would not be undone.

"I cannot imagine a president [would] throw it all out the window. I just don't see that," he said.

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