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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 22:09 GMT
Cubans end EU diplomatic freeze
Cuban President Fidel Castro
President Castro has responded to calls for dialogue by the EU
Cuba's government says it is resuming formal contacts with the EU and several European countries which were broken in a diplomatic freeze in 2003.

Relations with Brussels broke down after European diplomats began inviting critics of Fidel Castro to cocktail parties in Havana.

The measure was part of Europe's response to the jailing of 75 dissidents in Cuba.

But last month a commission in Brussels recommended the practice be abandoned.

The EU welcomed Cuba's decision. European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said it "should open new possibilities in the relations between the Union and Cuba".

Havana began its diplomatic initiative in December by re-establishing contact with Spain, which is promoting a European policy of engagement with Cuba.

On 3 January it resumed formal contacts with the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Sweden.

And on Monday Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque announced that the initiative would be extended to the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, as well as the EU as a whole.

The latter four countries had opposed a softening of ties with Havana.

Cuban rage

Correspondents say the so-called "cocktail wars" have stymied Cuba-EU ties since June 2003.

The dispute began over Cuba's imprisonment of 75 dissidents - which Havana says are mercenaries in the pay of Washington - and its execution of three men who attempted to hijack a ferry.

The EU announced it would limit high-level government contacts in response. It also began inviting Cuban dissidents to national day celebrations at embassies.

Havana was so enraged by the move that it cut contacts with all European embassies except Belgium, which did not invite dissidents to events.

But Spain spearheaded a new approach calling for increased European dialogue with Cuba.

And last month Brussels proposed a compromise: not to ask any Cubans to future receptions, whether they are government ministers or dissidents.

A prominent dissident said the European gesture had served its purpose.

Oswaldo Paya, one of the leaders of the dissident Varela democracy project, said the row had showed that within the EU there was "the goodwill to contribute" to change.

Havana halts EU 'cocktail wars'
04 Jan 05 |  Americas
Cuba releases leading dissident
30 Nov 04 |  Americas
EU ponders softer stance on Cuba
19 Oct 04 |  Americas
Spain and Cuba in expulsion row
17 Oct 04 |  Americas
Cuban dissident economist freed
23 Jul 04 |  Americas
Cuba's cocktail wars
15 Jul 03 |  Americas

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