British government praises Cuba for its work fighting Ebola

The United States continues to impose a trade embargo on the island

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The British government has said it is "proud" to work alongside Cuba in the international fight against Ebola.

Foreign Office minister Huge Swire made the comments while on a visit to the country, the first such trip by a UK minister in 10 years.

He is set to hold meetings with senior government figures on the island.

“Although we naturally have our differences, we work together where we can, including on the response to the Ebola epidemic, where Cuba is playing a vital international role,” he said.

“Cuba is sending hundreds of medical professionals to UK-run facilities in Sierra Leone on top of staff already in that country and in Guinea. I am proud that we can work together on such an important cause, and one which the UK has committed £205m to tackling. It has the potential to become a global problem and as such needs a global solution.”

Mr Swire will discuss trade and investment between the two nations, and will also raise UK concerns about the human rights situation in the country.

The minister said it had been “too long” since a member of the British government had visited Cuba and that he was pleased to be breaking with tradition.

“It has been too long since a UK Minister was in Cuba, but I’m very happy to rectify that.”

The visit appears to mark a thawing in relations between the two countries.

Cuba has been run by its Communist Party since former president Fidel Castro led a revolution to overthrow the US-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

It continues to suffer from an embargo by its largest neighbour the United States, which the United Nations has repeatedly criticised on human rights grounds.

Despite its relative poverty, the country’s health service ranks highly in international terms, and is one of the world’s most active providers of medical professionals to international disasters.