French President Hollande to visit Cuba as EU pursues talks
PARIS, March 3 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande will travel to Cuba in May, his office said on Tuesday with the European Union due to hold further talks this week aimed at increasing trade, investment and political dialogue with Havana.
The announcement came against a backdrop of thawing relations between the United States and Cuba after a half-century of antagonism. On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped the United States would open an embassy in Havana by April.
Hollande would be the first French head of state to visit the communist Caribbean island since the end of the Cold War. He will be in Cuba on May 11 as part of a trip to the French overseas Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadalupe.
Last April, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Cuban leader Raul Castro, marking the first trip by a high-ranking French official to Cuba in more than 30 years.
The EU last year agreed to begin negotiations with Cuba to increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights in its most significant diplomatic shift since it lifted sanctions on the country in 2008.
France is looking to expand its business ties with Latin America and sees Cuba as an important player in the region.
Around 60 French companies operate in Cuba including construction group Bouygues, drinks group Pernod Ricard and hotels specialist Accor. (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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