Hollande Urges End to Cuba Embargo

Hollande Urges End to Cuba EmbargoHollande Urges End to Cuba Embargo

French President Francois Hollande called Monday for an end to the US embargo on Cuba, as he met with Fidel Castro during the first visit by a western leader since Washington and Havana moved to restore ties.

Hollande said France will do whatever possible to see that "the measures that have so badly harmed Cuba's development can finally be lifted" ahead of meetings with Fidel and his younger brother Raul Castro, the duo who have ruled Cuba since its 1959 revolution, AFP reported. Hollande met first with a smiling Fidel, the iconic 88-year-old father of the revolution, who he said still "had a lot to say." Hollande called Fidel a figure of historic stature.

He said his trip came "at a particularly important but also uncertain time," as the US seeks to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century-long break and European countries scramble to reinforce ties.

Hollande's Cuba trip, the first ever by a French leader, has highlighted the simultaneously cooperative and competitive relationship between the US and the European Union as both look to increase business with Havana.

Asked if US President Barack Obama would follow suit and make his own visit, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he "wouldn't rule it out" over the course of the next year.

Since announcing in December that the US and Cuba would move to renew ties, Obama has used executive authority to relax parts of the embargo, including restrictions on travel and on sending money to the island, in place since 1962.