Jimmy Carter doubts Cuban opening
- From: PL <pl.nospam@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 01 May 2009 21:54:47 +0200
Posted on Wednesday, 04.29.09
Jimmy Carter doubts Cuban opening
By FRANK BAJAK
Associated Press Writer
BOGOTA -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that the United
States and Syria are close to restoring full diplomatic ties, but he
doubted Cuba's new openness means its leaders are ready to grant free
speech or change their political system.
"I don't have much doubt that the present tentative plan of our
government and the Syrian government is to re-establish diplomatic
relations when it's propitious to do so," he told The Associated Press.
"I don't see any impediment to it. It will be an orderly process,"
Carter said in a telephone interview from Quito, Ecuador, at the start
of a four-nation South American trip. "I wouldn't be surprised if it
happens this year."
Carter said he planned to meet President Bashar Assad in Syria in early
June after attending elections in Lebanon.
The United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria in 2005 after a
political assassination widely blamed on Syria - a claim Damascus
denies. Washington has long objected to Syria's support for the
Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups as well as its alliance with Iran.
Carter said Assad is "very eager" to restore full ties with Washington.
Syria has recently expressed openness to indirect peace talks with
Israel as long as they focus on a complete withdrawal from the Golan
Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Carter brokered peace between Israel and Egypt 30 years ago during his
presidency and last traveled to Lebanon and Syria in December.
On Cuba, he indicated he thinks Fidel Castro - and not brother Raul, who
succeeded Fidel as president after he fell ill in 2006 - has the last
word on the communist island.
"I think Fidel is staying as aloof as he possibly can," said the
84-year-old Carter, who has long opposed the U.S. trade embargo and last
visited the island in 2002.
But Fidel also "reserves the right to come forward on a particular
occasion when he feels his voice might be helpful in clarifying an issue."
"And I don't think that Raul is likely at all to depart in any
substantive way from the policies that he knows that Fidel endorses."
Fidel Castro said in a newspaper column last week that President Barack
Obama "misinterpreted" April 16 remarks by brother Raul in which he said
Cuba was willing to discuss "everything, everything, everything," with
Washington, including human rights and political prisoners.
"I don't think (Raul) was specifically talking about abolishing Cuba's
restraints on assembling and freedom of speech and changing the form of
government," Carter said. "He's not talking about putting that on the
Carter said he had not spoken to either Castro brother or to Obama since
what has been widely seen as a thaw in relations.
He said he hopes Obama, who kicked off the exchange by easing
restrictions on travel and money transfers to the island by
Cuban-Americans, will now be aggressive in taking advantage of any opening.
"I would like to see the United States lift all travel restrictions
because that only hurts the Cuban people," Carter said.
He was to meet with Ecuador's newly re-elected president, Rafael Correa,
on Wednesday, and continue on to meet with the presidents of Peru,
Bolivia and Brazil.
Carter said he was exploring the possibility of bringing together the
presidents of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru - with U.S.
representation - in a forum where "sensitive issues can be discussed
His foundation, The Carter Center, has been attempting, so far without
success, to persuade Ecuador and Colombia to restore diplomatic ties
severed after Bogota's March 1, 2008 cross-border raid to attack a rebel
camp run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group.
Jimmy Carter doubts Cuban opening - Cuba - MiamiHerald.com (1 May 2009)
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