PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives in Havana on Sunday
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and a 120-member delegation are in Cuba on Monday, as Tehran launches a high-profile initiative to promote ties with Latin America.
Zarif landed in Havana on Sunday evening at the outset of a Latin American tour. He told Iranian reporters on the plane:
The Islamic Republic of Iran has age-old and fortified relations with the American continent and the Latin American countries and it is determined to strengthen its relations as well as political and economic presence in this important region of the world.
Tehran’s economic hopes — amid concerns that an anticipated recovery after the July 2015 nuclear deal may be in trouble — were shown by the presence of 60 Iranian businessmen and private-sector managers and 20 Government official with economic responsibilities.
Iran is also hoping for political advantage, with Zarif starting in a Cuba which restored diplomatic relations with the US last year. The Foreign Minister said:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is beside the Cuban government and nation.
It is for more than 50 years that the Cubans have persisted the oppressive pressures and sanctions of the US. [With] the visit by the US President to Havana, the sanctions have been eased a little, but they are still installed.
Cuban Vice President Ricardo Cabrisos Ruiz visited Tehran last week, meeting President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader’s top advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati.
Zarif will also visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela during his week-long tour.
Defense Minister: “Russians Betrayed Our Trust” Over Use of Airbase
In a further sign of complications over an agreement to allow Russian use of an Iranian airbase for operations in northern Syria, Iran’s Defense Minister has accused Moscow of a betrayal of trust.
Russia began operations on August 15 from the Hamedan base in western Iran, with Tu22-33M “Backfire” long-range bombers and Su-34 tactical bombers carrying out missions. Iranian officials indicated that the agreement was part of an Iranian-Russian “strategic cooperation” in the region.