Cuba, EU agree new talks in March: European sources

An old car with the Cuban flag painted on the trunk is seen near the Capitol of Havana, on January 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)
An old car with the Cuban flag painted on the trunk is seen near the Capitol of Havana, on January 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Brussels (AFP) - Cuba and the European Union have agreed to meet in early March for a third round of negotiations aimed at normalising ties, EU sources said Wednesday, less than a month after a historic breakthrough between Havana and Washington.

The EU and Cuba, which began normalisation talks last year after ties were suspended in 2003, had initially planned to hold a third round in December before they were called off twice.

"Now there is a new date for a round of negotiations on March 4 and 5," an EU diplomat said.

"The EU condition is that Cuba does not ask for restrictions on the subjects discussed, particularly on human rights issues and the role of civil society," the diplomat said.

Two rounds of talks were held last year but in December Cuba suspended a planned third round which would have tackled the sensitive rights dossier.

An EU source said the two sides agreed in principle to meet again in early March in the Cuban capital Havana.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini welcomed a breakthrough US-Cuba accord last month to re-establish diplomatic relations after more than 50 years as a "historical turning point."

Mogherini said at the same time that the EU also hoped ultimately to be able to "expand relations with all parts of Cuban society."

EU-Cuban ties were suspended in 2003 when Havana launched a crackdown and jailed 75 dissidents in a direct response to calls for liberalisation and greater respect for human rights.

Cuba is the Americas' only one-party, communist-ruled state and is alone in Latin America in not having a political dialogue with the EU.

The EU bases its approach to Cuba on a 1996 "common position" document which states that economic cooperation must go hand in hand with advances towards a pluralistic democracy and respect of human rights.