Image: U.S. President Barack Obama applauds active military personnel after speaking about counter-terrorism during his visit to MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, in Tampa, Florida, U.S. December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said on Wednesday it hoped to sign off on at least half a dozen agreements with the United States before businessman Donald Trump, who has threatened to derail detente between the former Cold War foes, becomes president on Jan. 20.
Cuban and U.S. officials held talks in Havana to discuss what more could be accomplished during President Barack Obama’s remaining weeks in office, agreeing to arrange more high-level visits and technical meetings.
The more Cuba and the United States deepen their detente, the more irreversible it will become, analysts said.
“At the moment we are negotiating 12 more (accords) with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them,” Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry’s director of U.S. affairs, told a news conference.
The accords would be in areas such as seismology and meteorology, she said, adding that Cuba and the United States had already signed a dozen accords in the two years since they agreed to normalize relations, ending decades of hostility.
They have also opened embassies, restored commercial flights and opened travel options.
But some fear all that is now at stake, given Republican Trump has said he would seek to reverse the opening unless Communist-ruled Cuba gives the United States what he calls a “better deal”.
Vidal declined to comment on Trump’s statements but said she hoped his administration would recognise that the detente had the backing of most Cubans and Americans.
“Cuba would hope the new U.S. government takes into account the results we have achieved… that are backed by the majority of the Cuban population (and) U.S. citizens,” she said.
Cuba was willing to continue improving relations but “within the respect of the existing differences and without having to make any kind of concession to the principles in which Cuba firmly believes,” Vidal added.
In Washington on Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers joined more than 100 Cuban entrepreneurs to urge Trump to continue the thaw.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is pressing American companies to complete business deals in Cuba by then.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Norwegian Cruise Line said on Wednesday they had received approval from Cuba’s government to operate cruises to the island.
The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba had jumped 68 percent in the first ten months of this year to 208,000, Vidal said.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; editing by Grant McCool)