Chirac welcomes Spanish attempt to thaw relations with Cuba
Campaign News | Tuesday, 7 December 2004
French President puts clear distance between himself and Washington
PARIS Dec 7: French President Jacques Chirac used a bilateral summit meeting with Spain to send a clear message to the Bush regime that France supports a policy of dialogue with the Cuban government.
In a clear reference to remarks earlier in the week from the US western hemisphere spokesman Roger Noriega, the French President praised Spain's attempts to thaw the freeze in relations between the EU and Havana
"Truth does not always necessarily come from the mouth of some (US) State Department official," said a smiling Chirac when asked to comment on a recent accusation by US Undersecretary of State for Latin American affairs Roger Noriega that Madrid was making "concessions" to Cuba.
Mr Chirac described Cuba's recent release of several convicted US agents as a "positive effect" arising from Spanish attempts to soften the EU line on relations with Havana.
The Cuban authorities have in recent days released seven of the so-called dissidents out of a total of 75 government opponents jailed last year after being convicted of accepting money and gifts from the US interest section in Havana.
Although the relases were on health grounds, they came after of a meeting between Spain's ambassador to Cuba, Carlos Alonso Zaldivar, with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque in the first contact between an EU state and a senior Cuban official since the European Union imposed sanctions on the island last year.
The European Union set the sanctions to protest against the arrest and jaloing of the so-called dissidents and the execution of three Cubans convicted of terrorism and endangering civilian lives when they hijacked a harbour ferry and tried to force the captain at knifepoint to sail to the United States with 19 passengers on board.
Although Washington continues to adopt a tough line on Cuba, Chirac praised Spain for its attempts to restore dialogue with Havana.
Speaking after wide-ranging talks with his host, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero,he said that France "perfectly approved" a policy designed to establish a dialogue with Havana.
"I note that this policy has had positive effects with the freeing of several personalities," said Chirac.
Zapatero meanwhile said he would align himself with "the evaluation made by Raul Rivero on the effects of this policy or that policy," in reference to Cuban dissident writer Rivero, who on his release expressed his "eternal gratitude" to the Spanish government.
Rivero added that hardline policies such as the US blockade against Cuba were not working.