France relaunches cooperation ties with Cuba

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The governments of Cuba and France have resumed formal cooperation for the first time since relations were suspended in 2003 after mass arrests of dissidents, according to an official statement signed by both countries.

"Both sides reaffirmed that cooperation is aimed at benefiting the people, economic development, cultural, scientific and technical areas identified as priorities," said the joint statement.

Officials identified priority areas as agriculture, health, environment, scientific research, teaching French, and in fields of art and culture.

"The signing of this agreement marks a step forward in relations between France and Cuba and emphasizes the desire to strengthen historic ties between both countries," said the statement.

The European Union suspended cooperation in 2003 as part of sanctions imposed on one-party communist Cuba following the arrest and conviction of 75 dissidents.

Relations with Paris have warmed however as the Cuban government has moved to release most of those political prisoners to exile in Spain, in a deal coordinated with the Roman Catholic Church.

© 2010 AFP

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