Cuba has conditionally accepted to resume political dialogue with the European Union, two months after Brussels lifted diplomatic sanctions against the Caribbean island.
Cuba has conditionally accepted the resumption of formal political dialogue with the European Union, as offered by the European bloc when it lifted diplomatic sanctions against the island two months ago.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said it "accepts your proposal ... once the foundations and bases are established by joint agreement," in a letter sent in early September to EU headquarters in Brussels and the French Embassy in Havana. Reuters was shown the letter this week.
The establishment of formal dialogue, along with the elimination of EU sanctions, could be the first steps toward normalization of what have been strained relations between the 27-member bloc and Cuba, diplomats said.
"This is good. Forget the rhetoric. The important thing is the dialogue will resume. And if we're allowed to resume cooperation that would be a big step forward," said a European diplomat in Havana, asking not to be named.
France currently holds the EU's presidency, which rotates among member nations.
Cuba's acceptance of a resumption of dialogue came after the island was slammed by Hurricane Gustav and just before Hurricane Ike, both of which caused an estimated $5 billion in damages. Local economists say the damage may lead to pressure for speedier reforms under new President Raul Castro, who took over this year from his ailing brother Fidel Castro.
Dialogue between Cuba and Europe broke off when the EU imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Caribbean island in 2003 after the Cuban government arrested 75 dissidents.
The sanctions were suspended in 2005, but not formally lifted until June 19.
The lifting of the sanctions, which the EU said would be reviewed annually with an eye on the human rights situation in Cuba, was accompanied by an invitation for the communist-run government to join in a "global political dialogue."
DISPLEASURE AT ANNUAL REVIEW
Cuba had chafed at the sanctions. In its letter, it said the EU decision to eliminate them "was a necessary rectification."
It also expressed displeasure at the EU decision to conduct annual reviews.
"The ministry considers unacceptable and energetically rejects the continuous questioning that (the EU) expresses about the Cuban political, economic and social system," the letter said.
Cuba has said little publicly about the lifting of sanctions, although Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told Reuters at the time it was a "step in the right direction."
Former leader Fidel Castro, in a column shortly after the EU vote, accused the bloc of "enormous hypocrisy" for its decision.
"From Cuba, in the name of human rights, they demand impunity for those (dissidents) that try to deliver ... the homeland and the people to imperialism," he said, referring to arch foe the United States.
Date created : 2008-09-16