France wants to be 'engine' of Cuba-US dialogue

26th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

In addition to boosting European rapprochement with Cuba, France hopes to facilitate a dialogue between United States and Cuba.

HAVANA – France wants to serve as the "engine" of a dialogue between Cuba and the United States, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's special envoy to Cuba said after a two-hour meeting with President Raul Castro.

"France and its president want to be one of the engines of the dialogue between Europe and Latin America," special envoy Jack Lang told reporters.

"France wants to facilitate a dialogue between Cuba and the United States... it wants to be an engine for that dialogue," he added.

At the start of a six-day visit here aimed at boosting French-Cuban ties, Lang said the election of US President Barack Obama "is an important political change" that could lead to a "climate of cooperation and no more confrontation" between the two neighbours.

The envoy said he hoped the Obama administration would lift the 47-year US embargo on the communist island, long called for by the UN General Assembly.

"How do you explain the fact that Cuba is on the US list of countries it considers sponsors of terrorism?" Lang asked rhetorically.

Sarkozy, he added, "wants to turn a new page with Cuba" and get closer to all the countries of Latin America.

The French leader is aware that "the international situation is changing both in Latin America, as well as the North (America) and in Europe."

Sarkozy’s move to send French former culture minister to Cuba to renew ties with its Communist rulers boosts the European rapprochement which began in 2008, commission spokesman John Clancy said.

"To a certain extent we are already on the way to normalising our relations with Cuba," said Clancy, citing a visit to Havana last October by EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel.

"On all more general aspects of the EU's relations with Cuba that is really something that can only be decided" by the 27 EU nations, he stressed,

"Everything is well in hand," he added.

The Caribbean island is still subject to a US trade embargo but European powers have begun to rebuild development ties, which Fidel Castro broke off in 2003 after EU criticism of a Cuban crackdown on dissidents.

Cuba and the European Union formally restored ties last October by signing a cooperation agreement that released 2.5 million dollars in aid for rebuilding efforts after two hurricanes devastated the island in September.

However EU sanctions against Havana have been suspended rather than formally lifted.

AFP / Expatica

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