Updated 07:34 AM EDT, Mon, Sep 16, 2019

Cuba's Castro Pays Visit to France in Historic Move to Strengthen Bilateral Relation

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Cuban President Raul Castro and French President Francois Hollande met in France to reaffirm their willingness to strengthen their countries' bilateral relations, reported Prensa Latina.

In a statement from the Elysee Palace, Hollande said, "Today we are opening a new page in the links between the two countries." The links refer to the signing of a bilateral economic road map between France and Cuba concerning tourism, transport, and trade partnership. He also added that this agreement was reached due to a December 12 meeting between Cuba and the Paris Club, concerning the Cuban Debt.

Hollande added, ""We want to go further bilaterally, boosting great cultural cooperation, university exchanges. The French Development Agency is working on the identification of projects that could be boosted."

Business Standard noted that ties to Cuba were restored with the United States in December 2014. Following this, the European Union, led by France, Netherlands, and Spain, also expressed their interest in resuming ties.

For France, the economic ties with the Caribbean country is mainly with the hotel industry, construction, telecommunications, energy, and banking, with around sixty French firms already setting up shop in Cuba. Castro's visit to the European nation marks a historic trip aimed to cement such relations.

Castro, for his part, highlighted the link of both countries in reference to culture and friendship. He stated, "We have held fruitful talks about different issues of the bilateral agenda. We ratify the willingness to broaden and diversify the relations and cooperation in the political, economic-commercial, financial, academic and cultural fields."

In their talks, a new bilateral deal has emerged between the two countries. The Washington Post noted that Paris agreed to waive Cuba's remaining debt of $390 million, converting it instead to $230 million for a fund that will finance French-Cuban projects on the Caribbean island.

Another agreement also came to allow France to open a French Agency of Development in Havana, where the financial public institution can make loans to both public and private sectors to support development projects.

This signing highlights the agreement between Cuba and France, which, as Castro stated, is "creating more favorable conditions for the development of financial relations and the execution of new joint plans and projects."

He added, "We also appreciate France's leadership in promoting the construction of a new phase in the relations between the European Union and Cuba, based on respect and reciprocity."

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