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U.S.: Summit of the Americas still “credible” if Cuba attends

Deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Marie Harf

Washington, Dec 5 (EFE).- The United States said Friday that the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in April in Panama City, will still be “credible” even if Cuba attends and insisted it is focused on the issues to be addressed as opposed to which countries are present.

The deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Marie Harf, made those remarks when asked at a press briefing about the Panamanian government’s decision to invite Cuban President Raul Castro to the gathering, which is held every three years.

“We certainly recognize Panama’s prerogative as the host of the 2015 summit to extend invitations to whomever it chooses … what we’re focused on is less on who’s invited and more on what’s discussed,” she said.

“Certainly the conference can be credible” even if Cuba attends, she said when asked whether the United States’ longstanding criticism of the Communist-ruled island’s human rights record would strip the gathering of its credibility or even affect U.S. participation.

“You know we attend these summits. We think they’re important … and talking about human rights and democracy and all of these issues in the Americas, that should be a key part of this and that’s what we’re focused on,” Harf said, although she added that “we don’t have details on U.S. participation (in Panama) yet.”

“That’s the decision the White House will make,” the deputy spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not confirm whether President Barack Obama will travel next year to Panama, although he noted that he had attended the two other Americas summits held since he took office in 2009.

Opposition by the United States and Canada led to Colombia, host of the previous Summit of the Americas in 2012, choosing not to invite Cuba to that year’s gathering.