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US, Cuba to reopen embassies

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Old 02-07-2015, 10:02 AM   #1
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Usa US, Cuba to reopen embassies

The United States and Cuba have agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies, President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday.

"This is a historic step in our efforts to normalise relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbours in the Americas," President Obama said at the White House.

"With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people," President Obama said, adding that US diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island country.

He added that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana later this summer to raise the American flag over the US embassy.

In a letter to Cuban leader Raul Castro that dated June 30, President Obama said the two countries have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations and permanent diplomatic missions in respective countries on 20 July.

President Raul Castro confirmed the decision in a letter to President Obama.

The two Presidents announced in December a thaw in relations following more than five decades of enmity.

Washington and Havana have held four rounds of talks in the past few months in a bid to restore diplomatic relations.

President Obama met with President Castro in Panama on the sidelines of a regional summit in April, the most significant interaction between US and Cuban leaders in more than five decades.

In late May, the US officially removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing a major obstacle to reestablishing diplomatic ties between the former Cold War rivals.

On Wednesday, President Obama acknowledged that the US and Cuba will "continue to have very serious differences" on issues including freedom of speech and assembly and the ability to access information, vowing that "we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values”.

"Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight," he said. "But I believe American engagement through the embassy, our businesses and, most of all, through our people, is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights."

The President also called on congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from traveling or doing business in Cuba.

"Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it's time for Congress to do the same," he said, while noting that "there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation." -
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