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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 15:36 GMT
EU and Cuba bury the hatchet
Fidel Castro
The meeting ends long-standing acrimony
Political dialogue with Cuba is back on track, European Union representatives have announced after a weekend of talks in Havana.

We've had an open meeting during which we worked seriously and could re-establish, I believe, a political dialogue at a very useful level

EU representative Jan De Bock
The EU praised in particular Cuba's willingness to discuss questions of human rights - an issue which had previously soured relations.

"Both parts reaffirm their willingness to exchange relative information in the area (of human rights)," a final declaration from the meeting said.

A common position adopted by the EU five years ago said that improved political relations with Cuba would depend on progress in human rights and democracy.

History of acrimony

"We've had an open meeting during which we worked seriously and could re-establish, I believe, a political dialogue at a very useful level," said the head of the EU delegation, Jan De Bock.

For his part, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the discussion had been "serious, open and respectful".

The warmth of the discussion is something of a turnaround. Only last year, several European states backed a UN vote condemning Cuba's human rights record, causing relations to become increasingly acrimonious.

As a result, Cuba withdrew from a trade and aid pact between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel further aggravated Cuban sensitivities when he held meetings with dissidents on a visit to Havana earlier this year.

Cuba is currently the only Latin American country not to have an economic co-operation agreement with the EU.

But trade with individual European countries remains strong, particularly as the US embargo on Cuba leaves the market free from American rivals.

See also:

23 Aug 01 | Americas
Tensions cloud EU-Cuba visit
06 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
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