SOLOMONS ESTABLISH TIES WITH CUBA

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (PINA, Dec. 25) – The Solomon Islands have established diplomatic relations with Cuba as the communist nation seeks to benefit from participation in the ACP (African, Caribbean, Pacific) group.

Cuba, backed by Caribbean neighbors, is seeking to join the Cotonou Agreement, the major ACP-EU (European Union) aid, trade, and development partnership.  

Although a member of the 78-nation ACP group, Cuba is the only one that is not a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement. This is because of tensions between Cuba and the EU over human rights and political freedoms issues.

But at the latest ACP Council of Ministers meeting, held this month in Brussels, the council welcomed Cuba's request for accession to the Cotonou Agreement. The council also reiterated the ACP’s support for Cuba’s accession and called on the European Union to give consideration to Cuba’s accession without imposing any conditions.

The council of ministers is the ACP's regular meeting with decision-making power. It defines the broad outlines of the ACP group's policies and its cooperation with the EU.

Soon after the council meeting, at a signing ceremony at the Cuban mission at the United Nations in New York, Cuban and Solomon Islands diplomats formalized diplomatic relations.

It comes after a year in which Cuba has built its diplomatic relations with Pacific ACP countries. These included Fiji during the ACP summit in Nadi and Tonga during a visit to Cuba by Prime Minister Prince ¹Ulukalala Lavaka Ata.

Meanwhile, the ACP Council called on the European Union to defend, the "legal obligation and political commitment enshrined in the Cotonou Agreement, particularly the Sugar Protocol."

The ministers called on the European Commission and the EU members to take, in conjunction with ACP, all necessary measures to defend the Sugar Regime and ACP Preferential Access.

They said this is needed to protect against "unwarranted threats posed by Australia and Brazil and against any other threat posed by the proponents of unbridled trade liberalization."

The EU is already helping ACP sugar countries such as Fiji be a third party during World Trade Organization hearings on Australian and Brazilian challenges to EU sugar policy.

The ministers also urged the EU to recognize that the ³review² referred to in the Cotonou Agreement does not in any way imply a ³renegotiation² of the Sugar Protocol.

They said it is to ensure the World Trade Organization-compatibility of the Sugar Protocol "and to safeguard the benefits derived therefrom."

The ACP council also called on the European Union to recognize that there is a great difference between the ACP countries, many of them least developed countries, and Thailand and the Philippines.

They urged the EU to ensure no decision is adopted that is prejudicial to the ACP. They also asked it to ensure the preservation of access to the EU of ACP products in general, and tuna products in particular.

December 27, 2002

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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