Ireland has warmly welcomed the immense progress which has taken place in US-Cuba relations over the past two years, including President Obama’s historic visit to Havana in March 2016 and the full restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Ireland has consistently made clear that it supports the ending of the US embargo against Cuba. Most recently, on 26 October, Ireland joined all other European Union member states in voting in favour of the annual Cuban resolution at the UN General Assembly in New York, calling for an end to the US embargo. The resolution was passed unanimously for the first time, with the US choosing to abstain from the vote. I very much welcome this as a positive step forward.
As the Deputy will be aware, the US embargo on Cuba is codified in legislation, and the approval of the US Congress is required in order to rescind it. President Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to end the embargo, not least during his visit to Havana this year. Bilateral discussions continue between Cuba and the US on a range of issues.
Less than two weeks have passed since the US presidential election result was confirmed. This is a period of transition, and the various actors will take some time to settle in. The position of the new administration on US-Cuba relations is not yet known.
2016 has seen excellent progress in EU-Cuba relations. Negotiations on an EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement were concluded in March, and it is hoped that the Agreement can be signed before the end of the year. This will be the first bilateral agreement between the EU and Cuba, superseding the EU Common Position of 1996.
In terms of our bilateral relations, work is continuing towards a Memorandum of Cooperation between Cuba and Ireland, which will provide a framework for enhanced cooperation in the areas of economic, trade, agricultural, academic, cultural, and tourism relations. It is planned to conclude the Memorandum in the coming months.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss these issues as well as the positive developments in Ireland-Cuba relations with the Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, en marge of the UN General Assembly in September. I look forward to the continued strengthening of our bilateral relations and of EU-Cuba relations in the years to come.