US, Cuba to open embassies as part of normalizing ties

US and Cuba to reciprocally open embassies as part of agreed plan to normalise half century of interrupted relations

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The US administration will announce the opening of embassies with Cuba on Wednesday, a move that is expected to finalise more than five decades of hostilities between Washington and Havana

US officials said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama is getting ready to announce the reopening of American embassy in Havana as the next step of restoring bilateral relations, a similar move is also expected from the Cuban government.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is likely expected to show up during the inauguration of flag-raising ceremony at the American embassy in Havana, a senior US administration official told reporters.

"We will formally announce tomorrow that the United States and Cuba have reached an agreement to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and open embassies in each other’s capitals," the senior official said.

The US and Cuba had announced last December the start of process of normalizing their diplomatic ties which were cut in the wake of 1959 Cuban Revolution.

Soon after the Revolution, the US had attacked Cuba through the invasion of Bay of Pigs in 1961 at a time when tensions reached its peak and led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The missile crisis further deteriorated not only the US-Cuba relations, but also led to the acceleration of ideological and military rivalries between the US and the former Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.

Since then, Cuba has been isolated by the US until President Barack Obama declared on Dec. 17, 2014 that the parties had decided to decrease tension and revitalise the ties.

The US-Cuban political breakthrough enabled the parties to come together in different diplomatic levels as the US Secretary of State and Cuban Foreign Minister held official talks in previous months which marked the first highest level meeting since the bilateral relations have been suspended 55 years ago.

President Obama also approved Cuba’s removal from the terror-sponsoring state soon after he met with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro at the Summit of Americas in Panama in April which irreversibly clinched  the rapprochement of former antagonists.

The only countries that remain on the US “blacklist” are Iran, Sudan and  Syria, which have been exposed to US arms embargo as well as a wide variety of additional financial restrictions.

The restoration process in the US-Cuban relations still have some lingering problems, including Cuba’s human rights record and long-standing US embargo that can only be lifted by the Congress which the Republicans dominate and put their reserves on the normalisation efforts with Havana.

But US officials see there was little possibility that the anti-Castro hardliners among US congressmen would be able to block such a rapprochement with Cuba.  

Meanwhile, the parties have been maintaining negotiations on some US demands, such as relative freedom of movement for US diplomats on the island and the question of how many shipping containers will be allowed into Havana for renovating the US mission there.

The US expects Havana leadership to allow its missions and activities in the country, comparable to that in Russia and Vietnam, but the Cuban side has objected some American training activities, most notably in areas like journalism and information technology, given at the US interests section in Havana.

TRTWorld and agencies