French embassy snubs dissidents for Bastille Day

13th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

HAVANA, July 12 (AFP) - The French Embassy has invited Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and other Cuban officials to its Bastille Day reception in Havana, but took dissidents off its guest list, a French diplomatic source said.

HAVANA, July 12 (AFP) - The French Embassy has invited Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and other Cuban officials to its Bastille Day reception in Havana, but took dissidents off its guest list, a French diplomatic source said.

France's invitation to Perez Roque, several deputy ministers and other officials, comes two years after it froze such contacts.

It made its decision, the diplomatic source said Tuesday, after the European Union failed to take a single position on the issue.

If Cuban officials attend the event, it will represent a new chapter in Franco-Cuban relations frozen since Cuba's crackdown on dissidents in March 2003 when Havana jailed 75 of them.

And instead of inviting dissidents to its annual July 14 festivities this year, the French Embassy will welcome a dozen dissidents to a working group scheduled for July 13.

The Cuban government had suspended all contact with European diplomats -- including attendance at national events of EU member countries -- as a protest over dissidents being invited.

But in January, the European Union temporarily suspended sanctions against Cuba -- in June ratifying the move which re-establishes political dialogue with Havana.

At the same time, it ordered a suspension of its practice of inviting Cuban dissidents to national celebrations, saying that instead a parallel dialogue should be established with the opposition.

"I am grateful that France recognizes the opposition, but it concerns us that the French position breaks with that of the EU's not to invite either the government or the opposition," said Miriam Leiva, wife of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, one of the jailed dissidents who was released in November.

Elizardo Sanchez, leader of a human rights commission operating illegally on the island said he did not think the government would reply positively to the invitation "because their position is one of all or nothing."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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