Havana: President Raul Castro has warned his country could remain estranged from the United States for decades if Washington does not drop political demands.
"If we really want to make progress in bilateral relations, we have to learn to respect each other`s differences and get used to living peacefully with them. Otherwise, no. We are ready for another 55 years like this," Castro yesterday said at the legislature`s closing session.
Castro, 82, recently made world headlines for simply sharing a handshake with US President Barack Obama at the funeral of South Africa`s iconic anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.
The United States and Cuba do not have full bilateral relations. Washington has imposed sanctions on Havana -- the only Communist state in the Americas -- since 1962.
To fully normalise relations with Cuba, US law technically requires a change in Cuba`s regime. "We do not ask the United States to change its political and social system, nor do we agree to negotiate over ours," Castro said bluntly.
Cuba is always ready to talk as long as its independence and self-determination are not undermined, Castro said.
The United States runs an Air Force base in Cuba`s Guantanamo province against Havana`s will, but which it refuses to leave. It is home to the controversial US war-on-terror prison camp.