Cuba, U.S. Ties Fully Restored; Embassies Open on July 20

01 July 2015 11:28am
Cuba, U.S. Ties Fully Restored; Embassies Open on July 20

President Barack Obama, saying “we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past.” announced today that the United States and Cuba finalized an agreement to restore diplomatic relations.

The countries have agreed to open embassies in Washington and Havana on July 20, the biggest tangible step in the countries’ historic bid to restore ties after more than a half-century of hostilities.

“I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement,” Obama said at the White House.

The U.S. and Cuba have been negotiating the re-establishment of embassies following a surprise December announcement that secret talks had led to an agreement to restart diplomatic relations.

For Obama, ending the U.S. freeze with Cuba is central to his foreign policy legacy as he nears the end of his presidency. Obama has long touted the value of direct engagement with global foes and has argued that the U.S. embargo on the communist island just 90 miles south of Florida was ineffective.

A senior Obama administration official confirmed the embassy planning. The official insisted on anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter ahead of the president.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Vienna for nuclear negotiations with Iran, is also expected to speak about the embassy openings. Kerry has said previously that he would travel to Cuba for an embassy opening.

Ahead of Obama’s remarks, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana delivered a letter from the White House to Cuba about restoring embassies in the countries’ respective capitals. U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis arrived at the Cuban Foreign Ministry in Havana on Wednesday morning to hand-deliver the message.

The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution. The U.S. spent decades trying to either actively overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening the economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Since the late 1970s, the United States and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called interests sections in each other’s capitals. The missions are technically under the protection of Switzerland, and do not enjoy the same status as embassies.

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