February 2, 2016 - 10:27 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - French President Francois Hollande called Monday, February 1 for an end to U.S. sanctions on Cuba during a historic visit to Paris by President Raul Castro, seen as a key step in rebuilding ties with the West, AFP reports.
"President Obama... must, and he's said it himself, go all the way and bring an end to this vestige of the Cold War," Hollande said after meeting with the 84-year-old Cuban leader.
France has led the way in welcoming Cuba back into the diplomatic fold since the Caribbean island restored relations last year with the United States, after more than half a century of enmity.
Havana hopes the visit will allow Cuba to "widen and diversify its relations with France in all possible areas -- politics, economics, trade, finance, investment, culture and cooperation," said Rogelio Sierra, Cuba's deputy foreign minister. Although Washington has yet to lift its trade embargo on Cuba - that dates back to 1962 – U.S. and European businesses are jockeying for position as the communist island's economy gradually opens up.
Cuba, meanwhile, needs to tap new sources of income as its main ally and financial backer, Venezuela, is mired in economic and political crisis.
France and Cuba signed deals on tourism, transport and fairtrade goods, AFP says.
Some of France's largest companies already invest in Cuba, including telecoms group Alcatel-Lucent, and energy firms Total and Alstom. France's Pernod-Ricard has produced Havana Club rum in Cuba for two decades.