EU agrees to lift ’symbolic’ sanctions on Cuba

June 20th, 2008 - 9:01 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels, June 20 (DPA) European Union foreign ministers agreed late Thursday to lift sanctions on Cuba, diplomats said. The sanctions, imposed in 2003 but suspended in 2005, are largely symbolic. They include limits on high-level government visits and the role of EU diplomats in Cuba’s cultural events.

But the move is nevertheless expected to place Brussels and Washington on a collision course.

Earlier Thursday, a US State Department spokesman said that Washington opposed any moves to ease sanctions on Cuba, saying that reforms so far under new Cuban President Raul Castro are “some very minor, cosmetic changes” that have fallen well short of ending decades of repressive policies under Fidel Castro.

“Certainly we would not be supportive of the EU or anyone else easing those restrictions at this time,” State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday, when asked about the possible lifting of sanctions.

The end of sanctions would give legitimacy to a dictatorial regime, Casey said, and countries should not signal that the “continued oppression of the Cuban people is any more acceptable now than in the past.”

The EU decision must now be formalized at a later meeting, with foreign ministers expected to review the decision one year from now.

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