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EU, Cuba enter difficult phase of bilateral talks, focus on political pact

, Cuba enter difficult phase of bilateral talks, focus on political pact

The and Cuba entered the most difficult phase of their
bilateral talks on Thursday when they started to discuss a new political
agreement to replace a unilateral policy imposed by the Europeans 19
years ago.

The two sides have met five times over the past year-and-a-half in
search of a far-reaching accord. Both sides reported on Thursday that
two of the three pillars of a deal, on trade and cooperation, were
basically finished, and they started talking about a political agreement
between the 28-nation bloc and the communist-run Caribbean island.

The EU’s decision last year to open talks was a victory in itself for
Cuba as a European acknowledgment it would have to scrap its “common
position,” which placed a priority on democratic reforms and improved
in Cuba.

Cuba has always rejected foreign suggestions it should change its
one-party system or that human rights on the island were lacking.
Historically the loudest calls came from the United States but in 1996
were echoed by the EU, which adopted the common position at the urging
of ’s conservative former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

“All I can say about the common position is that is it is neither common
nor a position,” Abelardo Moreno, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister for
European affairs, told reporters at the conclusion of two days of talks
in Havana.

His counterpart, chief European negotiator Christian Leffler, told a
separate news conference the common position was still valid but
stressed the EU was looking for a better and longer-lasting agreement to
replace it.

Leffler said it was “no secret” the two sides remained apart on issues
such as human rights but that the whole point of the talks was to search
for areas of agreement.

“We know it’s long-term work,” Leffler said. “We’re not trying to
convince other countries, other governments, that there is one perfect
European model to apply.”

Less than a year into the European talks, Cuba and the United States
announced detente, leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations
after 54 years of Cold War hostilities.

In March, Cuba and the EU agreed to speed the pace of talks to reach the
basics of a deal by the end of 2015, but both sides backed off that goal
on Thursday. The next round was scheduled for the second half of
November in Brussels.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: EU, Cuba enter difficult phase of bilateral talks, focus on
political pact | Reuters –

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