Francois Hollande has topped off a historic visit to Cuba by meeting both President Raul Castro and – unexpectedly – the communist country’s revolutionary father Fidel Castro.
President Hollande is the first high profile Western leader to visit Cuba since the recent thawing of relations between Washington and Havana..
“Coming to Cuba, I wanted to meet with Fidel Castro. I know what he represents to the people and the people of France. So I wanted to reach out to him as he had reached out to France,” declared President Hollande.
Unlike some other European countries, France has long maintained reasonably good relations with Cuba and wants to benefit from the new economic openness.
The small country is in foreign policy talks with both the European Union and the United States amid intense world interest – the Pope is due to visit Cuba in September.
However the US trade embargo remains a thorny issue. Republican controlled Congress is resisting President Obama’s call for the embargo to be removed.
Reporting for euronews from Havana, Stefan Grobe:
“Hollande’s meetings with Raul and Fidel Castro highlight the French claim to be the number one partner for Cuba in Europe. It symbolises a new era in the relations between Havana and the West. But what Cubans are really longing for is a visit of Barack Obama – before the US president leaves office.”
#France"— Shaun Murray (@BestWebEnglish) May 11, 2015
Intereconomia</a> Hollande will meet w/ Castro but not w/ dissidents <a href="http://t.co/POO22r0Ie3">http://t.co/POO22r0Ie3</a> <a href="http://t.co/ts0nDVW6eZ">pic.twitter.com/ts0nDVW6eZ</a>"[TR.]<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cuba?src=hash">#Cuba</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/FoxNews">Foxnews