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France Calls on US to Lift Economic Embargo on Cuba

France Calls on US to Lift Economic Embargo on Cuba
By SYLVIE CORBET, ASSOCIATED PRESS PARIS — Feb 1, 2016, 3:50 PM ET

France called on the U.S. to lift the economic embargo against Cuba
during a historic state visit Monday by the Caribbean island’s president
aimed at boosting economic relations between Havana and Paris.

Raul Castro’s trip comes after a breakthrough deal was reached in the
French capital in December to lighten Cuba’s foreign debt.

French President Francois Hollande, the former leader of France’s
Socialist party, greeted Castro on Monday with a warm hug in the
courtyard of the Elysee presidential palace, and then started the
meeting saying “Vive Cuba!” (“Long live Cuba!”)

Both presidents vowed to develop economic, political and cultural ties
during a joint news appearance.

The U.S. announced a normalization of relations with Cuba in December
2014, but it still maintains an economic embargo on the island.

Hollande told journalists that “President (Barack) Obama … must now
follow through and allow this vestige of the Cold War to end.” France
has called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo since 1991.

“We appreciate France’s traditional position in favor of the lifting of
the economic, commercial and financial embargo from the United States
against Cuba, which is the main obstacle to the development of our
country,” Castro said.

Cuba wants “to diversify the bilateral relation with France in all its
dimensions: political, economic, business, financial, academic and
cultural cooperation,” he said.

The Cuban president was to attend a state dinner in his honor later Monday.

Castro, 84, is on his first state visit to Europe since taking over from
his elder brother Fidel in 2006. The Cuban president briefly stopped in
Rome last year to meet with Pope Francis.

Hollande was the first French leader to visit Cuba in a half-century
when he went in May seeking to boost trade.

In December the Paris Club of creditor countries forgave $8.5 billion of
overdue Cuban interest payments in exchange for Cuba’s promise to pay
off $2.6 billion in loans from developed countries over the next year
and a half. France, to which Cuba owed $4 billion in overdue loans, led
the creditors’ negotiations.

A new bilateral deal regarding Cuba’s remaining debt to France, which
amounts to $390 million (360 million euros), was signed Monday. With
this agreement, Paris agrees to convert 212 million euros ($230 million)
into a fund that will finance French-Cuban projects on the island.

Another agreement allows France to open an office of the French Agency
of Development in Havana. The public financial institution can make
loans to public and private bodies to support development projects.

On Tuesday, Castro will meet with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and visit the Musee de l’Homme, a museum
focusing on human evolution. The Cuban delegation is also meeting French
business leaders and the UNESCO chief.

French companies are looking for business opportunities to open up in
Cuba, especially in the tourism, transport, food and environmental
industries. The number of French visiting Cuba in 2015 increased by 30
percent compared with previous years.

Source: France Calls on US to Lift Economic Embargo on Cuba – ABC News –
abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/historic-foray-castro-visits-france-cuba-opens-36639654

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