Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Monday appeared to lend his support to talks with the United States in his first comments about his longtime adversary since both countries agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties.
But Castro stopped short of an enthusiastic endorsement of the rapprochement, announced on Dec. 17 by his younger brother and Cuba's current president, Raul Castro, and U.S. President Barack Obama.
"I don't trust the policy of the United States nor have I had an exchange with them, but this does not mean ... a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or the dangers of war," Fidel Castro, 88, said in a statement published on the website of Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma.
The United States and Cuba held historic high-level talks last week in Havana that are expected to lead to the re-establishment of diplomatic ties severed by Washington in 1961.
"Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people ofLatin America that doesn't imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles," Fidel Castro said.
"We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries."
He took power in a 1959 revolution and spent much of his 49 years in power railing against the United States, which never succeeded in many attempts to oust him.
He was finally forced into retirement in 2008 by poor health and was succeeded by his brother Raul, who is now 83.
"The president of Cuba has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him by the National Assembly the Communist Party of Cuba," Fidel Castro said of his brother in the statement.
His silence on the issue had led to speculation over his health and whether he supported his brother's rapprochement with the United States.
On Jan. 12, he sent a letter to friend and retired Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona that squelched rumors he had died.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Kieran Murray)