The aspiration of Lithuanian diplomats to develop closer ties with the Communist Cuba has drawn criticism from the opposition – former foreign minister Audronius Ažubalis has accused the Foreign Ministry of dual standards and lack of honesty in statements about democratic values.
San Cristóbal de la Habana from Unseen Cuba album
© M.Jovaišos nuotr.

Lithuania's diplomacy chief Linas Linkevičius of the ruling Social Democrats has rejected the criticism, emphasizing that the entire Western world was opening to Cuba.

Last week, the foreign ministers of Lithuania and Cuba signed a memorandum on mechanisms of bilateral consultations, which is intended to boost political dialogue and mutual cooperation. Later that day in New York, Linkevičius met with his Ethiopian counterpart and discussed ways of enhancing mutual ties.

The meetings were held in New York where the ministers attended a session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Ačubalis noted that both Cuba and Ethiopia had been listed by independent international human rights organizations as lacking freedom and democracy, also fostering repressive regimes.

"The question is what Lithuania has in common with the countries and the foreign minister seeks when speaking about deepening bilateral relations with the exotic regimes," Ažubalis told BNS Lithuania.

In his words, the meetings reveal that "the foreign policies of the Lithuanian government are lost in dual standards and failure to identify priorities, while statements by the ruling parties about democratic values lack sincerity."

"Someone may think that we need to speak to dictators, seek 'dialogue' or even gratify them. But please be reminded – there have been no cases in history when a dialogue would change a dictator for the better or bring him back to the road of democracy," he added.

Linkevičius expressed astonishment over the criticism from his predecessor – in the minister's words, all Western countries are currently starting closer ties with Cuba. Linkevičius noted hat Lithuania was the last European Union (EU) nation to start diplomatic relations with Cuba, which could have jeopardized the support of Caribbean Sea countries to Lithuania's membership in the United Nations Security Council.

The foreign minister said the agreement on regular diplomatic contacts would help develop economic relations, tourism and represent citizens' interests.

"We cannot fail to see that the United States and the European Union are warming up the relations. We are not talking about strategic partnership, we're talking about relations, economic connections and tourism. With official relations in place, it is easier to represent our citizens," Linkevicčus told BNS.

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