Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday again offered the U.S. government the option of a "respectful dialogue" that would not compromise the island's sovereignty, and said the two countries can establish "civilized relations."

"If in recent times we have been able to have certain discussions on subjects of mutual benefit...we believe we can resolve other matters, establish civilized relations between the two countries, as our people and the vast majority of U.S. citizens and Cuban emigrants would wish," Castro said.

In a speech given Saturday before the National Assembly as the final plenary session of the year came to a close, the president recalled that Havana has expressed to Washington "on multiple occasions" its willingness to maintain a "respectful dialogue on equal terms, without compromising the independence, sovereignty and self-determination" of Cuba.

"We don't ask the United States to change its political or social system, nor will we negotiate ours. If we really want to make progress in bilateral relations, we must learn to mutually respect our differences and get used to coexisting with them peacefully," he said.

"That's the only way. Otherwise we're going to have another 55 years in the same situation," the president said during an address broadcast Saturday on state television.

In talking about relations between Washington and Havana, whose political differences go back more than 50 years, Castro did not, however, mention his greeting to U.S. President Barack Obama at the Memorial for the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela.

Castro and Obama's brief, unprecedented handshake awakened some expectations about bilateral relations, though neither government gave any importance to the matter, considering it a normal example of civil behavior. EFE