Cuba's Foreign Minister holds talks in Paris with French Secretary of State

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and the Secretary of State of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, met in Paris on Thursday, where they agreed on the need to boost bilateral relations.

During the encounter, the parties discussed the progress of the links between the two countries and the interest in deepening the high-level political-diplomatic dialogue and in making progress in the economic-commercial relationships and investment.

The visitor underlined that Cuba offers a high priority to relations with France, a prominent commercial partner, and one of the primary senders of tourists to the Caribbean nation.

"We share objectives such as the defense of multilateralism, the protection of the environment and the confrontation with the impact of climate change," said the island's foreign minister, who is briefly in the capital after participating in Geneva in the high-level segment of the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council.

In the western Swiss city, Rodríguez spoke with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Lemoyne co-chairs the Franco-Cuban Economic and Trade Commission, a forum that met in Paris last December with the signing of three new cooperation agreements among its outcomes.

In mid-January, the Secretary of State received the Deputy Prime Minister of the island, Ricardo Cabrisas.

At Thursday's meeting, Rodríguez was accompanied by the Cuban ambassador to France, Elio Rodríguez, and the Minister's Chief of Staff, Noel González. At the same time, the host was joined by the deputy director for Central America and the Caribbean at the Foreign Ministry, Sebastien Jaunet, and the director of the Secretary of State's Cabinet, François Decoster.

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Cuban and French foreign ministers meet in Geneva

The Cuban and French Foreign Ministers, Bruno Rodriguez and Jean-Yves Le Drian, agreed here today to continue working to deepen bilateral relations, in the context of their participation in the Human Rights Council.

During their meeting, they agreed to positively assess the progress of relations between Havana and Paris and addressed issues on the international agenda, diplomatic sources said.

Rodriguez and Le Drian are attending the high-level segment of the 43rd session of the Council, a body of 47 member states.

Cuba and France signed three new agreements to strengthen their ties at the end of 2019, when the fourth session of the bilateral Economic and Trade Commission was held in the French capital.

In mid-January, Cuban deputy prime minister Ricardo Cabrisas spoke with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, secretary of State for Foreign Trade and Tourism.

On the opening day of the Human Rights Council, the Cuban foreign minister also spoke with the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to whom he exposed the U.S. government's attacks on the island's medical cooperation.

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Flying to Cuba on Air France with an exclusively female crew, a gift for Women's Day

This year, Air France will celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March with a select flight to Havana featuring an all-women crew.

"This year we chose the Cuban capital for this flight," Antoinette Zullo, Air France-KLM general manager for Cuba and the Dominican Republic, told national television.

Women can do the same work as men, and this trip is a sign of that, she stressed. Havana is a very important destination for the Air France-KLM alliance because we want to participate in the tourism development of the island, she said.

Zullo said that in 2019 the company transported more than 350,000 passengers to and from the Cuban capital.

To celebrate International Women's Day, Air France has made similar flights in previous years to Tokyo, Beijing, Mumbai, and New York, among other cities.

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Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament field complete

The 12-team field for the Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament was confirmed following the completion of the four FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, with history made for Belgium and Puerto Rico, who are set for their maiden Olympic appearances.

On Sunday, the last six tickets to the Olympics were claimed by Australia, Belgium, Korea, Puerto Rico, Serbia and Spain, with Canada, China, France and Nigeria securing Tokyo 2020 berths on Saturday.

FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 champions USA and the hosts of the Olympic Games, Japan, already had guaranteed spots in the Olympics ahead of the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.

The full list of Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament teams:

Puerto Rico

Having won all three games, Canada emerged unbeaten from the Ostend, Belgium tournament with the host nation claiming the only other available qualification ticket alongside the automatically qualified Japan.

France utilized their home court advantage in Bourges, finishing with a 3-0 record and qualifying alongside Australia and Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, the two tournaments in Belgrade, Serbia saw China, Korea, Nigeria, Spain and Serbia lock in their Tokyo 2020 berths, joining the automatically qualified USA.

Emma Meesseman (Belgium), Sandrine Gruda (France), Nneka Ogwumike (USA) and Meng Li (China) received TISSOT MVP awards to headline the All-Star Fives of their respective tournaments following impressive individual displays.

The 2020 Tokyo Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament will take place from July 27 - August 9, 2020.

The draw for the event will take place on March 21, 2020.

The 12 qualified teams will be divided into three groups of four teams each. The Group Phase played in a round robin format, with each team playing the other teams in the group once.

The teams placed first and second in each group and the two best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase.

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Contemporary Dance of Cuba: a French History

The Cuban company starts a tour precisely in the country where it began its international journey, almost sixty years ago.

On January 9th, Contemporary Dance of Cuba begins its first international tour of the year: five French cities will host the mother company of modern Cuban dance, which will present a program that includes outstanding choreographies of the last decade.

Consagration, of the French Christophe Béranger and Jonathan Pranlas-Descours; Coil, by Julio César Iglesias; and Matria Etnocentra, by George Céspedes: these are works that walk different stylistic paths. They have something in common: the enthusiasm, strength and technical mastery they demand from a cast that, no one doubts is one of the strongest and most capable in the country ... and across the continent.

It’s been three decades since the group did not appear in France, without taking into account a few shows at the beginning of the last decade in Lyon. The public and critics in that country will have the opportunity to appreciate the work of a company that has deserved applauses in several European countries, particularly in Great Britain and Germany, its main places in that region of the world.

But the importance of this journey is that France was precisely the first country that visited Contemporary Dance of Cuba after its foundation by Ramiro Guerra, six decades ago. At that time it was called Modern Dance Ensemble, and it was planting the seed of what would be, over the years, the great movement of modern dance in the country.

The invitation was to participate in the Theater of Nations Festival, which hosted the city of Paris in 1961. It was a unique event: some of the most important scenic companies on both sides of the Atlantic met in the City of Lights. It was the opportunity for Cuba to show its new art, which had flourished thanks to the impulse of the Revolution, from the great seed of the Cuban cultural tradition.

But in April that year the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón took place, which shook the entire nation. At war it was lived. And it was precisely the undeniable force of a people, and their commitment to the new society that was forged, that guaranteed victory in just 72 hours.

The military action delayed the departure of the company. But being in France was a commitment, and a few days behind the schedule the company arrived to its destination.

These presentations at the famous Olympia Theater, at 28 Boulevard des Capucines, were a milestone for the Cuban dance: French critics warned that a new style was born. In fact, they were the foundations of an authentic school, which shifted between the North American and European aesthetics and techniques, but merged with the national heritage.

That was the beginning of a journey that has taken the company to the main theaters worldwide, throughout these decades.

The troupe now does not resemble those of years back: now there is a school that guarantees the level and availability of performers. But without Ramiro, without those first dancers, teachers and choreographers, one could hardly count on the extraordinary structure of today. Being a pioneer is usually a titanic challenge.

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French activists highlight Cuba's resistance against US aggression

The Association Cuba Cooperation France (CubaCoop) highlighted this Friday the resistance and unity of the Cuban people in the face of the escalation of US hostility in 2019.

The problems and obstacles created in Cuba by the Trump administration seemed insurmountable, but once again the resistance and unity of the Cuban people allowed them to find strength and solutions to maintain progress in the development of the country, the organization noted.

The association founded in 1995 to promote ties of friendship and solidarity with Cuba recalled President Miguel Diaz-Canel's speech at the end of the year, when he noted that Washington's hostility was faced without the need to appeal to neoliberal recipes, such as closing schools and hospitals, or raising the prices of fuel and electricity.

Last year, Cubans demonstrated their ability to overcome the tightening of the blockade, with a stable economy (which grew a modest 0.5 percent) and intact social protection, despite the unfair, inhuman and illegal measures, CubaCoop stressed.

With the purpose of strangling the Cuban economy, Trump did not cease to attack the small country, denounced the association that in the last two decades has promoted several projects of popular benefit in transport, water supply, renewable energy and culture in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas.

In this context, the association ratified its support for Cuba in 2020 and its commitment to cooperation, as a means to oppose the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed for almost 60 years.

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France condemns Title III of the Helms-Burton Act

The French government reiterated its condemnation of the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, a US initiative aimed at tightening the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, the French Senate stated today.

On its website, the upper house of the French Parliament disclosed the position, expressed by the Foreign Ministry in response to Senator for Martinique Catherine Conconne, who on November 28 requested clarification of the French goverment´s position in the face of escalating White House hostility towards the island.

According to the written response, France considers Washington's decision to activate Title III of the Act, which seeks to deprive Cuba of foreign investment, based on its extraterritorial nature, as an unacceptable violation of International Law.

The United States threatens our economic sovereignty, by attempting to dissuade companies, especially European companies, willing to make investments on the island, the text highlighted.

The Foreign Ministry recalled this December 19 the European Council regulation 2271, adopted in 1996 when the US Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which codifies the blockade, to protect the interests of the European Union from the application of extraterritorial laws.

The regulation from Brussels does not recognize any administrative or legal measure issued by a third country applied on European soil, thus rejecting Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, activated in May after previous White House administrations refrained from doing so in the face of global opposition.

Paris ratified that it will seek with its partners new measures to protect European interests and companies operating in Cuba.

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No Christmas service at Notre Dame for first time in 200 years

Notre Dame Cathedral will not hold Christmas services for the first time in more than 200 years, following the fire that devastated the Paris landmark in April, officials confirmed.

Reconstruction works take place on Notre-Dame on July 9, 2019 in Paris after it was badly damaged by fire in April.
It will be the first time since 1803 that the 850-year-old cathedral has not held Christmas services, spokesman Andre Finot told CNN on Sunday.
The cathedral -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- was ravaged by a fire which destroyed the structure's fire, parts of the roof and vault in April.

Smoke and flames rise from Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019.
Midnight mass will still be celebrated on Christmas Eve by rector Patrick Chauvet, but would instead be held at the nearby church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
The building had remained open for Christmas during 200 years of turbulent history, including Nazi occupation in World War II.

In June, French prosecutors said the catastrophic blaze could have been caused by a burning cigarette or an electrical malfunction. Officials noted they were looking into the possibility of negligence as they opened a judicial investigation.

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to have the structure rebuilt in five years. In April, France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced an international architects' competition to rebuild, and perhaps redesign, the fallen spire of the medieval landmark.
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