HAVANA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Presidents and heads of state of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) met here on Saturday to push up  economic and political cooperation in tackling regional challenges.

The summit of the 25-member organization came at a time when economic difficulties were worsened by threats of "outside forces" to the political stability in the region, according to organizers.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who arrived early Saturday in the Cuban capital of Havana, said the summit should help seek stability in the region and lead to new cooperation projects.

"We have to continue building the path of sustainable development, peace and stability in the Caribbean," said Maduro after his arrival at the airport.

Carlos Zamora, deputy director responsible for Latin America and Caribbean affairs at the Cuban foreign ministry, told reporters that a statement on support for Venezuela will be discussed at the summit.

Climate change, economic cooperation, sustainable tourism and transportation were also on the agenda of the foreign ministers' meeting.

The ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela, as well as continued U.S. blockade of Cuba are among issues expected to be mentioned in the Havana declaration to be issued after the summit, in addition to an ACS joint action plan for the next two years to increase economic and trade cooperation between member states.

In another development, Saint Lucia's diplomat June Soomer was elected as the new ACS secretary-general after a four-year leadership of his Colombian predecessor Alfonso Munera.

Bolivia, Uruguay and Kazakhstan obtained the status of ACS observer, as well as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

The ACS was launched in July of 1994 with the aim of promoting consultation and cooperation between Caribbean governments to push forward regional integration.