HAVANA – Cuban President Raul Castro held talks on Saturday with visiting Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev to discuss the “traditional” ties that unite the two nations and to seek new avenues of cooperation.
Nazarbayev arrived earlier in the day for his first official visit to the Caribbean island, a trip aimed at strengthening bilateral ties in the political, economic and cultural spheres.
During their “cordial” meeting at the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of the Cuban government, the two leaders confirmed their willingness to “to bolster cooperation and bilateral ties,” according to a joint statement published by Havana’s state media.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov took part in the talks, as did meeting the Cuban ministers of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz; Energy and Mines, Alfredo Lopez Valdes, and interim foreign minister, Marcelino Medina.
Prior to his meeting with Castro, Nazarbayev paid tribute to Cuban independence hero Jose Marti – a tradition for visiting heads of state and other dignitaries – at a memorial dedicated to his memory in Havana’s emblematic Plaza de la Revolucion.
After signing the guestbook, Nazarbayev told state media that “Kazakhstan has great interest in Cuba,” and acknowledged that he had long been “desiring” to visit “as I belong to a generation that has always admired the Revolution and Fidel Castro.”
As part of the official visit, Idrissov and Medina held a meeting at the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s headquarters.
The two nations are to sign a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation in the areas of labor, employment and social protection.
The official biography published Friday in Cuban Communist Party daily Granma states that Nazarbayev has actively participated in politics since the 1980s, during the time of the former Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, noting that he rose to become First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
He has been president of that Central Asian country since 1990, having been re-elected on four occasions.
Nazarbayev is the supreme commander-in-chief of the Kazakh armed forces, chairman of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, leader of the ruling Nur Otan party and president of the Kazakh Security Council.
In 2014, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the areas of education, science and sports.
In December 2015, Cuba and Kazakhstan signed a visa-exemption accord for short visits, an agreement aimed at boosting bilateral tourist flows and economic relations.