Cuba ready to negotiate with EU to normalize ties

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said his government “accepts with satisfaction” a proposal made last month by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to open negotiations.

Rodriguez said the talks would “mean the end of the European Union’s unilateral policies on Cuba.”

In 2003, the EU officially suspended relations with Cuba over the jailing of dozens of Cuban dissidents.

At talks in Brussels last month, EU foreign ministers voted to launch political talks that could eventually open the way to broader trade and economic ties.

Rodriguez said that Havana would “act constructively and believes that the principles set forth are fully justified and should continue to be the reference point for our relationship.”

These principles, according to Rodriguez, are that the talks should be non-discriminatory, respect national sovereignty and abide by the idea of non-interference in the internal affairs of the nations involved.

The United States, which does not have full bilateral relations with Cuba, has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Havana for more than a half-century.

Rodriguez said diplomats from both sides would work to determine a timetable for the talks, adding the process would “certainly be a long one.”

While individual EU nations have signed bilateral accords with Cuba, the bloc’s policy as a whole remained based on a 1996 position linking relations to an improvement in human rights, the EU said.

Since 2008, about 15 EU countries have resumed cooperation projects with Cuba.

While the United States has maintained its trade embargo with Cuba, the EU is the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island’s second biggest trading partner after Venezuela and a leading source of foreign investment.

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