The European Union and Cuba signed an agreement on Friday to normalize relations 13 years after the unilateral suspension of ties by the EU.
The signing of the agreement meant a breakthrough just ahead of a historic visit to Cuba by U.S. President Barack Obama.
EU and Cuban officials signed the agreement in Havana during a visit by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini following nearly two years of intense negotiations between the two sides that also touched upon the thorny issue of human rights -- the one that prompted the EU to unilaterally suspend ties in 2003.
Cuban deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno and the EU negotiator Christian Leffler, signed the deal in a ceremony chaired by the island's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Mogherini.
"This is a historic day for bilateral relations," Mogherini said, calling on the United States to lift the embargo on Cuba.
The agreement is subject to ratification by the governments of the EU bloc and Cuba. Once implemented, it will allow for full economic cooperation and the delivery of aid to Cuba.
Mogherini said that she will ask the European Council to end a 20-year policy, known as the "common position" on Cuba, which restricts the EU ties with Cuba until reform are made in certain areas.
The policy was rejected by Havana as interference in its domestic policy.
The negotiations for the agreement began in April 2014. The island was the only Latin American country lacking such a deal with the EU.
However, Havana had already signed cooperation contracts with 17 of the 28 nations in the European community. The EU is the largest foreign investor and the third source of tourism in the Caribbean country.
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