Havana, Sep 9 (EFE).- Cuban President Raúl Castro has met with Mexican foreign affairs secretariat Jose Antonio Meade on the latter's third visit to the island nation since he took office.

Monday's meeting came following strains over the years in the bilateral relationship and shows the intentions of both to strengthen ties, diplomatic sources said.

The meeting took place in an atmosphere of "cordiality, confidence and cooperation", the Mexican secretariat said in a statement.

Havana was Meade's first stop on a regional tour which will also take him to Nicaragua and Panama ahead of the Iber-American Summit of Veracruz to be held in December.

Meade began his stay in Cuba with a conference at the Superior Institute of International Relations (ISRI), where he addressed the historical relationship between Mexico and Cuba and its future.

"On this visit we seek Cuba's support for other relevent forums which will take place in Mexico, particularly the Ibero-American summit," said Meade in his speech. "We still have to do a lot more and the relationship reflects the importance we assign to each other."

Over the past seeral years Cuba has not sent senior representatives to the Ibero-American summit and Castro has not attended since 2006 when he assumed the presidency after his brother, Fidel, stepped down.

Meade emphasized that Cuba and Mexico had many common interests concerning multilateral issues and referred in particular that both countries "are convinced" of the importance of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Precisely, the framework of the first two CELAC summits helped in strengthening the ties between Mexico and Cuba, first with the meeting between Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto y Castro in Chile in 2013, and later with an official reunion in Havana in January this year.

As part of this official visit, Meade met with Cuban Vice-President Ricardo Cabrisas and also held a meeting with Mexico's ambassador to Havana, Juan Jose Bermer.

The foreign affairs official, who did not meet with the press, on Monday answered only one question while leaving the conference and did not give further details about his stay in Cuba.

When questioned about several possible agreements in the petroleum sector between Mexican oil company Pemex and Cuba, he said that both countries shared "a territory where there are significant reserves" and where there is "room for development, technology exchange and investments".

Meade's visit to Havana facilitates the contacts and exchanges that Cuba and Mexico made at different levels and which in May included an important business mission to explore investment options, the diplomatic sources said.

On that occasion, an office of ProMexico was also inaugurated in order to promote bilateral trade which has doubled over the last decade to more than $500 million a year.

Mexico and Cuba have maintained diplomatic relations since 1962, even through the 1970s when many other Latin American nations had no official ties to the communist-ruled island and Soviet ally.

But the ties were almost broken during the term of Mexican president Vicente Fox between 2000 and 2006.

To stop this growing distance, then-Mexican president Felipe Calderon made an attempt in 2007 at a repprochement.

But that effort was hindered two years later when Cuba suspended commercial flights to Mexico due to the influenza A epidemic and criticized the Mexican government for allegedly covering up the disease.

The circumstances led to further distancing between the countries which was finally overcome in 2012 when Calderon made an official visit to the island, a few months before the end of his presidential term.

With Peña Nieto taking office, both countries have worked on strengthening and expanding bilateral cooperation. EFE