Rouhani Reinforces Friendship in Cuba

President Hassan Rouhani (L) meets former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in Havana on Sept. 19.President Hassan Rouhani (L) meets former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in Havana on Sept. 19.
Cuban President Raul Castro said his country is proud to remain Iran’s loyal partner and that no one can hinder the development of Tehran-Havana relations

President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Cuba on Monday to strengthen friendship with the Latin American country that has likewise been subject to unilateral American sanctions for decades.

"Cuba has always been among Iran's close friends in the international community and this friendship and alliance on international and regional issues, which have worked to the benefit of both nations, should continue," he said.

Rouhani was speaking at a meeting of the two sides' high-profile delegations in Havana, chaired by him and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.

"Iran and Cuba should bolster cooperation, particularly in the field of modern technology like nano- and bio-technology, because such cooperation can empower independent countries against hegemonic powers," Rouhani was quoted as saying by his official website.

Castro highlighted the two sides' shared history of struggle against US sanctions and called for strengthening bilateral cooperation.

"We are proud to remain your loyal partner. No one can hinder the development of our relations," he said.

A common anti-US stance has nurtured the longstanding bond between Tehran and Havana, although both have seen relations with Washington thaw in recent years.

They were both on the US State Department's list of terrorism sponsoring countries until Havana was removed last year as part of a detente with Washington.

However, a 55-year US embargo on Cuba still remains in place.

The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

US nuclear sanctions against Tehran were removed in mid-January when a historic deal with the United States and other world powers went into force to curb its nuclear program in return.

But the Islamic Republic is still struggling to revive its sanctions-hit economy as the non-nuclear American restrictions are holding oversees firms and banks back from Iran's lucrative, untapped market.

  Meeting With Fidel Castro  

Rouhani also met with Raul's predecessor and elder brother, Fidel, earlier in the day.

They discussed the importance of global food production "threatened by climate change, the incessant growth of the global population and dangers to the preservation of peace", the Communist Party newspaper Granma wrote, Reuters reported.

Rouhani made the visit when he stopped on his way to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Iranian and Cuban officials signed agreements for collaboration in health, education and scientific sectors, as well as a memorandum of understanding on banking.

The visit by the Iranian president came a month after his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif kicked off a tour of Latin America with a trip to Havana, promising to open a new chapter in bilateral relations.