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Summit Of Americas Ends On Frosty Note

4/16/2012 6:12 AM ET

A summit of the heads of American States ended in the Colombian resort city of Cartagena on a frosty note on Sunday, mainly over differences in inviting Cuba to the next Summit of the Americas planned to be held in Panama in 2015 and the issue of control of the disputed Falkland Islands.

Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States (OAS), which organizes the Summit of the Americas, some 50 years ago. Nevertheless, most Latin American States demanded during Sunday's summit that Havana be invited for the next Summit, evoking stiff objections from the U.S. and Canada.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa had stayed away from Sunday's summit to protest against Cuba's continued OAS expulsion. In an effort to address objections from most Latin American countries as well as Caribbean nations over the issue, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had put the issue on the Summit's agenda.

However, the proposal to allow Cuba's return to the OAS was met with fierce objections from the United States and Canada, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying that Havana "has not yet moved to democracy, has not yet observed basic human rights."

Obama told a post-summit press conference that Cuba was yet to usher in pro-democracy reforms as demanded by the international community, adding: "I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions."

Also, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez left the Summit ahead of the closing ceremony, reportedly angry over its failure to address the Falklands issue. Argentina claims ownership of the disputed islands, which have been under British control since 1833.

Although Argentina attempted to take the Falklands in 1982, it lost the ensuing war with Britain. The war left more than 600 Argentinian and 255 British military personnel dead. Argentina still claims sovereignty over the islands, which are located some 280 miles off the country's coast and known in Argentina as 'the Malvinas.'

Since the 1982 war, Argentina has been consistently asking Britain to engage in negotiations on the sovereignty of the long-disputed islands. The British government, however, have rejected such demands, insisting that it is up to the islanders to decide on the sovereignty issue.

Despite such issues marring the Cartagena Summit, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos refused to acknowledge the meet a failure, saying: "Who thought that an agreement would be reached here about the Falklands and Cuba?"

"We all knew there would be no agreements here, we knew it from before, so there are no negative surprises here," he added, apparently referring to the Summit's failure to issue a joint declaration after the meeting.

"Unfortunately, these summits work on the basis of unanimity, if just one country says 'I don't agree', then there can't be a declaration. But there is no room for the word 'failure,'" he said, noting that the Summit had endorsed a proposal to give the OAS States mandate to analyze and discuss drug policies.

Santos said the OAS would now monitor whether the current anti-drug policies of Member-States were working as desired and attempt to devise more effective and cheaper ways of fighting the drug menace. Stressing that the OAS was not considering the legalization of drugs as proposed by some Member-States, Santos said the grouping would instead attempt to formulate an effective and unified response to drug trafficking and organized crime.

by RTT Staff Writer

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