US and Cuba set to announce reopening of embassies after half-century of frozen relations

Countries will open embassies in their respective capitals

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Relations between the US and Cuba have moved beyond presidential handshakes and into agreements as the two countries have reached a deal to restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in their respective capitals.

President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the historic step on Wednesday, some six months after he made the surprising announcement that he was going to reestablish relations with the Communist Caribbean country.

“It’s a big milestone,” Ted Piccone, a Cuba expert at the Brookings Institution, told the Wall Street Journal. “This is the first thing we’ve seen since the 17 December agreement that says, ‘We’re jointly agreeing to this step.’”

Cuba and the US have held four rounds of talks aimed at repairing relations over the past several months, during which time Mr Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands and held a meeting during a regional summit.

In May, the US cleared a huge stumbling block when it removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, something Cuba indicated was crucial in reestablishing diplomatic ties.

To open an embassy in Havana, the US State Department has to inform Congress of its intent to do so. Congress then would have 15 days the review the proposal before the US could open the embassy.

Officials said the notice to Congress would come at the same time as the formal announcement of plans to reopen embassies, according to the Journal.

But even if both embassies open, the US trade embargo on Cuba and travel restrictions would remain. Congress must lift the embargo and travel ban, both of which have been in place since the 1960s.

 

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