MOSCOW, July 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia, Cuba and possibly other countries will pool their efforts for creating a major transport hub in Cuba by upgrading the port of Mariel and building a modern international airport in San Antonio de los Banos, President Vladimir Putin said.
In an exclusive interview to the Latin American news agency Prensa Latina ahead of his South American tour, during which he will visit Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, Putin said Russia’s decision to write off 90% of the Cuban debt on loans granted in the Soviet times was a “unprecedented step” which “testifies to the strategic nature of our bilateral relations”.
The total debt exceeds 35 billion U.S. dollars. A relevant Intergovernmental Agreement was signed in October 2013 and now it is in its final stage of ratification. In addition, the remaining 10%, or 3.5 billion U.S. dollars, will be spent by Cuba itself on significant investment projects, which Russia is going to select and negotiate together with the Cuban side. These projects are aimed at social and economic development of the Republic, he said and expressed hope that these investments will prove fruitful.
Putin believes that Russian-Cuban trade and investment relations have a great potential. “In order to realise it effectively and on a regular basis we have established an Intergovernmental Commission. Its twelfth meeting is scheduled to be held in autumn 2014 in Havana,” he said.
The two countries have also established close cooperation between their business organisations - the Russian-Cuban and Cuban-Russian Business Councils. “Our businesses traditionally take an active part in the annual Havana International Trade Fair: in 2013, 50 Russian companies presented their products,” the president said.
“We believe there are real opportunities to bring our cooperation to a totally new level, including by implementing major joint projects,” he said.
As an example, he mentioned Zarubezhneft which started drilling the first development well in the Boca de Jaruco oilfield in August 2013.
“Our short-term prospects include the development of new oilfields in the Cuban offshore area. To these ends, Zarubezhneft and Rosneft engage in active cooperation with Cupet, Cuba’s state oil company,” Putin said, adding that INTER RAO was also planning to join the construction of power units for the Maximo Gomez and East Havana TPP. The supply of Russian electric power equipment to Cuba is well underway.
Putin noted that a substantial number of Russian companies - specialising, in particular, in the production of reinforced plastic goods, auto spare parts, tractor assembly and installation of heavy equipment for the railway industry - had shown interest in closer cooperation due to the development of the Mariel special economic zone in Cuba.
Other important projects include the construction of a major transport hub with Russia’s and Cuba’s involvement, as well as the possibility of attracting investment from third countries. It involves upgrading the port of Mariel and building a modern international airport with a cargo terminal in San Antonio de los Banos.
Putin stressed that Russia also attached “great importance to high technology cooperation. In particular, active work is underway to create GLONASS ground infrastructure on the island, to provide Cuba with products, services and technologies in remote sensing and satellite telecommunications”.