Raul Castro arrives in Paris as part of historic visit
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Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in Paris on Saturday as part of his historic state visit to France. His stay in France begins with a private visit before being officially received by French President Francois Hollande under the iconic landmark of Arc de Triomphe in the French capital on Monday.
Castro will hold talks with Hollande at the Elysee presidential palace and attend a state dinner. He will meet various French officials on Tuesday.
The visit, which was announced on January 19, marks the dawn of a new era of economic and diplomatic ties for the island nation.
Cuban deputy foreign minister Rogelia Sierra said Cuba wishes to expand and further diversify its relations with France in the fields of economy, commerce, finance, investment, and culture.
According to French officials, the two countries are expected to sign an economic roadmap to develop ties.
They will also sign deals on transport, tourism and fair trade.
This is Castro’s first state visit to Europe since he took over from his elder brother Fidel as leader in 2006.
Fidel Castro had visited France in 1995 and met with its then president Francois Mitterrand.
Last May, Hollande became the first Western head of state to visit Cuba in over 50 years.
His visit took place following the thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States at the end of 2014.
Hollande called for the lifting of the US economic embargo trade embargo which has been in place since 1962.
Paris is also taking a leading role in strengthening Cuba's political ties with Europe overall. It hopes for a new cooperation deal after years of tension over the sensitive issue of human rights in Cuba.