Madrid gets their man back in Havana

26th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 November 2004, HAVANA- Spain's ambassador has met with Cuba's foreign minister, in the first contact between an EU state and a senior Cuban official since the European Union imposed sanctions on the island 17 months ago.

26 November 2004

HAVANA- Spain's ambassador has met with Cuba's foreign minister, in the first contact between an EU state and a senior Cuban official since the European Union imposed sanctions on the island 17 months ago.

"We met with the Spanish ambassador ... and we have re-established official contact with the Spanish ambassador in Havana," Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told a press conference at the foreign ministry, where he was joined by
Spanish Ambassador Carlos Alonso Zaldivar.

After the brief remarks, the diplomats went to another room for private talks that lasted about 95 minutes.

"As you know, there is an entire process begun by Spain to create a more normal situation in EU-Cuban relations," the ambassador said after the meeting.

"I have listened, I answered as well as I could the questions that were asked to me, and now I'm going to report to my government," he said.

But diplomats from other European countries said the meeting was "a complete surprise" to them.

One warned that the talks "will open a crisis in heart of the European Union," where nations have struggled to agree on how to respond to President Fidel Castro's crackdown on the Cuban pro-democracy opposition.

The European Union slapped sanctions on the communist-run island in June 2003, after Cuban courts sentenced three Cubans to death for attempting to flee to the United States and handed down heavy jail sentences to 75 dissidents.

A month ago, a fresh political row erupted after Cuba refused to grant entry to three parliamentarians -- Jorge Moragas, external relations spokesman of Spain's right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP), and Dutch colleagues Boris Dittrich and Kathleen Ferrier -- who had arrived in Havana to meet with Cuban dissidents.

After 1996, the European Union established a policy toward Cuba, conditioning better diplomatic ties on political changes in the Americas' only communist state.

However, Spain, under its new Socialist government elected last March, has been pushing for dialogue with Havana and a "new type of relationship" with the communist island in the belief that sanctions have produced only a stalemate.

Spain's foreign ministry late Thursday stressed Madrid's desire to see normal relations between the whole of the European Union and Cuba.

"The foreign ministry notes the announcement by the Cuban authorities and signals that its objective is the normalisation of contacts between the Cuban authorities and all the embassies of the European Union, not just specific
embassies," a ministry statement read.

"Spain will continue working with all its EU partners to achieve this normalisation with a view to reaching the objectives fixed by the common (EU) position adopted in 1996," the ministry added.
  
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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