French president calls for end to US embargo on Cuba
Updated: 2015-05-12 09:09
Cuba's President Raul Castro (R) receives his French counterpart Francois Hollande at the Revolution Palace in Havana May 11, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
HAVANA - French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for ending of the US trade embargo on Cuba, saying France "will be a faithful ally" as Cuba reforms its centrally planned economy and tries to re-enter the global economic system.
Hollande's one-day trip made him the first French president to visit Cuba since it became an independent country.
Along with a large contingent of French executives, he is focused on strengthening business and diplomatic relations five months after the declaration of detente between Havana and Washington.
Hollande met with President Raul Castro during his brief visit to the island.
The French leader said he also met for about 50 minutes with Castro's older brother and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who talked about climatic problems, agriculture and sanctions against Cuba. Hollande said during an encounter with French residents in Cuba that Castro looked physically "deteriorated," but that they had "an easy conversation."
Top diplomats from Japan, the European Union, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia have visited the island in recent months in bids to stake out or maintain ties with an island that suddenly looks like a brighter economic prospect amid warming US-Cuba relations.
In Washington on Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that President Barack Obama "has indicated that he does not envision a trip to Cuba anytime in the near future. But I certainly wouldn't rule it out over the course of the next year."