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OAS members demand Cuba's inclusion in next summit

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

MONTEVIDEO, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The majority of country delegations attending the 44th general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) agreed Thursday that Cuba should take part in the regional bloc's next summit to be held in Panama next year.

The bloc, which groups countries from throughout the Americas, but has long sidelined Cuba in keeping with Washington policy, is holding its annual assembly in Asuncion, Paraguay.

At a meeting of the bloc's Summit Implementation Review Group ( GRIC), Panamanian Foreign Affairs Minister Francisco Alvarez De Soto proposed Cuba be invited to attend the summit.

The U.S. delegation promptly rejected the proposal, opening the issue to a debate during which several countries warned they would boycott next year's general assembly if Cuba is once again left out of the regional gathering.

"It would be a step backwards, a sad decision, if the next summit is again affected by the ... absence of many presidents because it has been decided to exclude Cuba," said Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timerman.

In the interest of regional unity, "the best thing that can happen ... is for Cuba to participate," he said, adding that it would make it "very difficult" for Argentina to take part in the summit if Havana is snubbed again.

Brazilian envoy Jose Felicio echoed those sentiments, calling Cuba's inclusion "a necessary condition" for "the continuity of constructive dialogue" towards greater integration.

His Bolivian counterpart, Diego Pary Rodriguez, was even more blunt, saying "if Cuba is excluded, we consider ourselves excluded as well from the next summit of the Americas."

Other countries also declared themselves in favor of the proposal, including Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Guyana, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The three-day assembly, whose focus this year was "Development with Social Inclusion," began Tuesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based OAS comprises more than 30 countries throughout the Americas with the stated aim of promoting regional solidarity, however, its heavily U.S.-influenced agenda has often had the opposite effect, including generating conflict with socialist governments such as Cuba's and Venezuela's.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140605/oas-members-demand-cubas-inclusion-next-summit