Croatian President Stjepan Mesić, who is on an official visit to Cuba, met in Havana on Thursday with Cuban President Raul Castro to discuss the promotion of bilateral relations, notably in the economy and trade.
Before the start of the official talks between the two presidents at the Palace of the Revolution, President Mesić was given a welcome ceremony, at which the national anthems of Cuba and Croatia were played and he reviewed a Cuban army unit lined up in his honour.
The talks were held in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect, which marks relations between Cuba and Croatia, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported. The two statesmen expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in bilateral relations, confirming their readiness to continue promoting them, notably in the economy.
The talks also focused on international multilateral relations and interests, Prensa Latina reported. The two presidents did not give statements for the press after the talks.
The Cuban Communist Party's bulletin, the Granma daily, reported that President Mesić supported the lifting of the USA's economic, trade and financial embargo on Cuba, which has been in force almost half a century.
Croatian president stated that many Croatian companies had successfully participated in various projects in Cuba in the past, and that this would be so in the future as well, because there was great potential for it in both countries.
President Mesić also pointed to Cuba's great potential in the tourism industry, saying that Croatia, as a strong tourist economy, was willing to share its experience in that sector.
Asked about his motive for visiting Cuba as the first European head of state to do so after a number of years, President Mesić said that there should be cooperation between Cuba and European countries and that he believed other European leaders would soon visit Cuba as well, Granma reported.
President Mesić visited Cuba in 2006 as head of a Croatian delegation attending the 14th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, in which Croatia has observer status.
All Cuban media underline in their reports on President Mesić's visit that Croatia supports in the UN General Assembly a resolution calling for the lifting of the US blockade of Cuba.
The Croatian and Cuban Chambers of Commerce signed at a business forum in Havana on Thursday an action plan for 2010, which is expected to contribute to trade between the two countries. State Secretary Tatjana Kesić, who is at the helm of the Croatian business delegation visiting Cuba, said that oil and energy, tourism, construction, transport and food industry were the areas of cooperation in which the two sides showed most interest during the talks. She said that trade between Cuba and Croatia was below the existing trade potential, adding that the current global crisis could prompt the two countries to consider cooperation possibilities, Prensa Latina reported.
The head of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Ivan Marichal, agreed that bilateral trade was insufficient, saying that President Mesic's visit would help advance business cooperation and broaden relations between the two countries.