Castro in Qatar on First Trip to Gulf State

Published May 14th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Cuban President Fidel Castro arrived in Qatar on Sunday, making him the first head of a communist nation to visit a Gulf Arab state, reported Reuters. 

The communist revolutionary and his high-level delegation flew into Doha from Malaysia to a red-carpet welcome ceremony presided over by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. 

Cuban flags fluttered beside Qatari flags above the main streets of the capital to greet the 74-year-old Marxist, who will spend three days in Doha on the last leg of a four-nation tour that has taken him to Iran, Algeria and Malaysia. 

Castro is expected to start official talks with Sheikh Hamad on Monday. Diplomats said the two leaders were likely to focus on trade, rather than the contrasting political ideologies of communist Cuba and monarchic Qatar. 

"They (Qatar and Cuba) are bound together by economic interests," said Jorge Leon Cruz, the Cuban ambassador to Qatar. 

"Cuba sees Qatar as an important player in regional issues, more so as it is the current chairman of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Council)," Cruz told Reuters. 

Cuba and Qatar established full diplomatic relations in 1989 and in September 2000, Sheikh Hamad became the first Gulf Arab leader to visit Havana. 

The two countries in late March signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up a higher joint committee to work on developing relations in different fields. The signing took place at the end of Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque’s visit to Doha.  

Sheikh Hamad in September became the first Gulf Arab monarch to pay an official visit to Cuba – Albawaba.com  

 


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