Lavrov says Russia to agree debt restructuring, wheat and oil supply

24th April 2023

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that the terms of the restructuring of Cuba’s debt to the Russian Federation are practically agreed. He was speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Havana during which he discussed the supply of oil, wheat, and other issues with government.

“Many goals were achieved that were discussed and agreed upon during the visit of the President of Cuba to the Russian Federation, primarily with regard to our relations in the field of fuel and food supplies,” Lavrov told a press conference held at the end of his visit. President Díaz-Canel visited Moscow in late November 2022 (Details Cuba Briefing 29 November 2022).

Continuing, he confirmed that “this work is at the final stage. Literally in the coming days the first results will be announced, and finally, I think, all this will be discussed during the intergovernmental commission, which is meeting here in mid-May,” he said.

Lavrov went on to stress that agreeing on the conditions for restructuring the Cuban debt will “contribute to everything that is advancing and is being achieved.”  Solutions, he said, have already been worked out and are being implemented that will allow Cuba and Russia not to be subject to sanctions. They will allow us “to reliably secure our trade, economic, and investment ties and projects from the influence of illegal Western sanctions,” the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying.

Regarding the supply of fuel and wheat, which for months Cuba has been struggling to obtain internationally, the Russian state linked media platform Sputnik quoted Lavrov as noting that the outline supply agreement on Russian bilateral cooperation achieved when President Díaz-Canel visited Moscow is being finalised.

On fuel, it will now be, Sputnik noted, for the Cuban-Russian Intergovernmental Commission to discuss supplies to Cuba in Havana in mid-May. In the case of wheat, it quoted Lavrov as saying “a special loan for additional supplies” is now being negotiated.

Speaking about tourism, Russia’s Foreign Minister said that he was certain that the expansion of tourist possibilities would also appear on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Commission. Both Cuba and Russia are interested in expanding the possibilities of mutual travel, but the decision in this regard “is made by the airlines themselves,” he told media representatives.

More generally, Lavrov noted that he had discussed in Cuba other areas in which Moscow and Havana could develop commercial and economic cooperation. These, he said, will be further explored when the Intergovernmental Commission on cooperation in trade and economy meets.

Commenting on the re-election of President Díaz-Canel and Esteban Lazo as President of the National Assembly (See Cuba below) he described it as a “vote of confidence of Cuban society in the policies implemented by the President’s team, including in the Minister of Foreign Affairs [Bruno Rodríguez].”

During the visit mention was made of “new bilateral economic and trade prospects and exchanges in other spheres, including cultural, educational and military, as well as sharing experiences in maintaining public order.” Answering a media question about whether Russia has plans to restore a military base in Cuba, Lavrov noted that “military cooperation with Cuba is developing successfully, in accordance with the agreements of the two sides.” “I understand that the form of this cooperation satisfies both the Russian and Cuban sides,” he said.

War in Ukraine

Regarding what Russia describes as its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine’, Lavrov noted that “our Cuban friends, President Díaz-Canel, and other representatives of the leadership clearly outlined their position and expressed full understanding in their assessments of the reasons that led to the current situation.”  Russia’s Foreign Minister went on to note: “We cannot agree that the world should permanently continue to live by these American rules…which reflect a desire to continue colonial ways of living off others and eliminating competitors.” For this reason, he said, he had proposed that Cuba and Russia cooperate in “the international arena to mobilise the countries that also reject such a dictate.”

Lavrov noted that the new conception of Russia’s foreign policy provides greater attention to the Latin American and Caribbean region but does not imply action to impose recipes “from the outside.”  Granma reported that Russia now intends taking an increased interest in Latin America through integration mechanisms including those involving Russia, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa (the BRICS), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Mercosur.

Relationship with Russia deepening

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs described relations as “a reflection of the maturity and historical character”, as well as “an expression of the high priority that Cuba grants to its ties with Russia.” In doing so he stressed the importance of the inter-foreign ministry consultation mechanism that exists between Cuba and Russia that enables “joint evaluation” and exchanges on issues of common interest relating to the international agenda.

On the conflict in Europe, Granma quoted Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, as saying: “We strongly reject the expansion of NATO, which continues to the Russian borders, the main cause of the current conflict in Europe.” In doing so he indicated that Cuba sought “a diplomatic, constructive and realistic solution to the current crisis by peaceful means, which guarantees security and sovereignty to all, as well as regional and international peace and stability.”

Lavrov arrived in Cuba on 19 April at the end of a 17-21 April tour of Latin America which included Brazil, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Russia is one of Cuba’s top ten trading partners, and both governments now define their partnership as “strategic.” Among those Lavrov met with were former Cuban President Raúl Castro. See also Russia below.

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Photo via: Peter Benjeens