Cuban President Raul Castro announced that he will travel to France next month as diplomatic relations continue to develop between Western nations and Cuba.
Mr. Castro will meet with French President, François Hollande on Feb. 1.
Mr. Castro’s trip is the first visit of a Cuban head of state since his brother, Fidel Castro, visited the country in 1995.
Confirming Mr. Castro’s visit, Mr. Hollande’s office said that, “it marked a new stage in the strengthening of relations between the two countries.”
In May 2015, Mr. Hollande visited Cuba, the first French president to do so in 50 years. During his visit, Mr. Hollande called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
There has been a long history of cooperation and cultural ties between France and Cuba since they first established diplomatic relations in 1902.
Since 1992, France has voted in favor of lifting the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba in the United Nations and has served as Cuba’s advocate in the European Union.
Currently, there are about 60 French companies operating in Cuba, including Bouyges, a French construction company.
Bouyges is working to restore the historic shopping center Manzana de Gomez in Havana into a hotel owned by Swiss-headquartered hotel brand Kempinski, which is slated to open in 2016.
In addition to corporate interests, France has also participated in barter arrangements with Cuba. For example, in 2000, France bartered food for sugar with Cuba, which supplied 70 percent of the island’s wheat and flour. The agreement was worth $180 million.
In December 2015, France, one of Cuba’s main creditors, announced a deal along with the 15 other creditor nations of the Paris Club to annul $4 billion in debt.