PARIS - French President Francois Hollande, at a news conference Monday with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, said it is time to open a new page in relations with Cuba — not only when it comes to France, but when it comes to the world.
It is essential the U.S. embargo against Havana is lifted so Cuba can take its full place in the international community, Hollande said. He added that President Barack Obama had taken many steps in this direction, and it now was time to follow through completely, thereby ending "a vestige of the Cold War."
Hollande vowed he would do everything he could to ensure normalized ties between the European Union and Cuba.
Washington announced a normalization of relations with Cuba at the end of 2014, but the United States maintains an economic embargo.
Castro — whose trip marks the first visit to France by a Cuban leader in more than two decades — is getting the red-carpet treatment in Paris.
Hollande hugged him when they met Monday at the Elysee Presidential Palace, and he later hosted a state dinner for the Cuban leader.
Last May, Hollande became the first French leader to visit Cuba in half a century.
Castro saluted France as Cuba's biggest creditor for playing a key role last December in lightening his country's international debt.
Trade and investment top the agenda of Castro's visit.
French businesses are eyeing opportunities in sectors such as tourism, transport and energy; and the two sides signed a dozen commercial agreements Monday. Hollande also announced a fund to accelerate French investment in the country.
Castro's trip is the second recent groundbreaking visit of a controversial world leader. Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Paris.