EU and Cuba near deal to normalize relations


After two years of negotiations, Cuba and the European Union are close to sealing an agreement to normalize relations that soured two decades ago, officials said Friday.
Cuban and EU negotiators said talks could be concluded for the March 10-11 visit to Havana by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“We have covered all the chapters of the agreement,” chief EU negotiator Christian Leffler said, adding that the sides ended two days of talks on Friday with substantial progress.
His Cuban counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno, said the agreement could be ready for Mogherini’s visit although it would not be signed immediately.
Since 1996, EU policy toward Cuba has been guided by the so-called Common Position, which rules out full relations with Havana until it makes reforms in areas such as more diverse political participation and freedom of expression. Relations hit a nadir in 2003 after Cuba imprisoned 75 government opponents during a crackdown on dissent. The EU instituted limits on high-level visits to the island, reduced cultural cooperation and began inviting dissidents to visit European embassies in Cuba.
Leffler said it was a coincidence that Mogherini would visit shortly before President Barack Obama’s historic March 21-22 trip to Cuba.

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