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Britain pursuing closer economic ties with Cuba

Minister of State for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire

Havana, Cuba (EFE).- Britain’s government said here Friday it is seeking to strengthen bilateral ties withCuba, particularly in the trade and investment area, within the framework of the European Union’s renewed interest in the island and the entire Latin American region.

Hugo Swire, a minister of state for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made the remarks in the Cuban capital, saying the government intends for more British companies to invest inCubaand contribute to the Caribbean country’s economic development.

His working visit, which began Wednesday, is the first by a British minister toCubain a decade.

Swire made it clear that Britain is not setting aside its concerns over the human rights situation on the Communist-ruled island, but said the government is acting in the context of Europe’s renewed interest inCubaand the region as a whole.

German, Dutch and French government officials have made recent trips toCuba, said Swire, whose visit coincides with EU-Cubatalks aimed at reaching a new political accord.

Relations between the European Union and Havana have been governed since 1996 by the EU’s so-called “common position,” which states that democratic reforms on the island are a prerequisite for full bilateral ties.

During his visit, the British minister has sat down with authorities in different sectors, including Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and the deputy health, agriculture and energy and industry ministers.

On Friday, he met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The Tory member of Parliament also will visit Havana’s “Pedro Kouri” Tropical Medicine Institute, which trains Cuban medical professionals for Ebola missions in West Africa.

Swire on Friday praised the island’s efforts to combat that deadly virus in other nations and also hailedCubafor hosting ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government the FARC guerrilla group.

He said Britain is making preparations for a visit in 2015 by a trade delegation made up of prominent British business leaders and has already identified priority sectors, including tourism, renewable energy, agriculture and state-of-the-art technology.

Asked about Britain’s stance on the longstanding rift between the United States andCuba, Swire said his nation has no role as a mediator but reiterated that London favors improved ties between Washington and Havana. EFE