Cuban President Raul Castro met Angolan leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Thursday, during a state visit meant to strengthen ties with an historic ally.
Castro arrived late Wednesday after an eight-day trip to Russia, bringing a large delegation on a mission to reinforce relations established in 1976, just after Angola's independence from Portugal.
Castro, who took over for his ailing brother Fidel nearly three years ago, held talks with Dos Santos early Thursday and then attended a special session of the National Assembly.
After their talks, Dos Santos hailed "the similar destinies" of the two countries which he said "are never stuck in dependency" and which have "charted their own paths", according to the state news agency Angop.
He also praised Cuba's achievements in health and education, two areas at the heart of their bilateral cooperation.
Over 30 years, more than 10,000 Cuban doctors and health workers as well as 16,500 teachers have come to Angola, while more than 18,000 Angolans have studied on the Caribbean island, Angop said.
"The visit officially is going to focus on the social and economic sectors, but I know from sources it's also in terms of defence and military forces," said Paula Roque, who studies the country for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.
Cuban officers have trained their Angolan counterparts for years at a military institute in Luanda, she said.
No official information was released on defence issues, but military ties have long been a key component in Cuba's relations with Angola.
In the 1960s, Cuba helped Angola fight against the Portuguese colonisers.
At independence, thousands of Cuban soldiers helped the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) fight of rebels.
After liberation leader Agostinho Neto died in 1979, Dos Santos took over and continued to enjoy Cuban aid against the rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), who were backed by the United States and apartheid South Africa.
Cuban forces in Angola reached 30,000 troops in the 1980s, until they were finally withdrawn at the end of the Cold War as part of a regional pact that saw South Africa grant independence to Namibia.
Angola's civil war raged on until UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi died in 2002, but without foreign forces.
Since the war ended, Dos Santos has struck a range of alliances, using its vast oil resources to attract interest from around the world.
"Angola's approach to foreign relations has always been to diversify its allies," Roque said.
"There has been development with China but also with the US," she said, but added: "Its allies from the Cold War are still important."
"It doesn't put all its eggs in one basket," she said.
Source: AFP Global Edition