Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs, will become the first Irish government minister to visit Cuba on an official visit when he travels to Havana early this year. Cuban ambassador in Ireland, Noel Carrillo, described the visit as a continuation of warmer relations between the EU and Cuba. Last year the EU formally restored relations with the island, two years after suspending economic sanctions against the Castro regime. "The visit will no doubt be a historical one since it will be the first visit of a high-ranking official of the Irish government to my country," the ambassador told The Irish Times. "Our two countries appreciate the significant contribution that small nations can make in the international scenario and we are very proud of our sovereignty and independence." It is expected that the minister will meet Raul Castro, who took over as president of Cuba following the retirement of his brother Fidel in 2008. The visit has been penciled in for February and will also include an official visit to Mexico.