Cuba Accepts Political Dialogue with European Union | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.09.2008
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Cuba Accepts Political Dialogue with European Union

The Cuban government under new leader Raul Castro has reportedly accepted the resumption of formal political dialogue with the EU after it lifted diplomatic sanctions against the island two months ago.

Raul Castro waves

Raul Castro is the brother of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro

TThe EU representative in Havana, Javier Nino this week signaled interest in taking up formal talks with Europe in what could be a first step towards normalization of strained relations between the 27-member bloc and Cuba.

In a letter handed over earlier this month at the embassy of France, current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, Nino said the communist regime was interested in restarting dialogue with the EU

"The Cuban government agrees to begin dialogue. (...) The EU proposal is an unconditional dialogue, mutual benefit, mutual respect on a number of issues such as rights and environmental issues," Nino told news agency AFP on Tuesday, Sept 16.

"At this moment the two sides are negotiating over when (plans for) the dialogue can be firmed up, but ideally it will be relatively soon," he said, adding that no date or venue had been set.

EU lifted sanctions against Cuba

Dialogue between Cuba and Europe broke off when the EU imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Caribbean island in 2003, angering Havana, after the Cuban government arrested 75 dissidents.

The sanctions were suspended in 2005, but not formally lifted until July 19.

The EU has said the sanctions will be reviewed annually with an eye on the human rights situation in Cuba. The elimination of sanctions was accompanied by an invitation for the communist-run government to join in a "global political dialogue."

News of a thaw in relations between EU and Cuba came after the island was battered by Hurricane Gustav and just before Hurricane Ike, which caused an estimated $5 billion in damages.

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