U.S. and Cuba to reopen embassies, President Obama announces

U.S. and Cuba flags
Miniature flags representing Cuba and the U.S. are displayed on the dash of an American classic car in Havana, Cuba, Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Later this month, a U.S. Embassy will be opening in Havana, Cuba. President Barack Obama announces Wednesday Cuba will also be opening an embassy in the U.S.

It’s the biggest tangible step in the countries’ historic bid to restore ties after more than a half-century of hostilities.

“Today I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba and reopen embassies in our respective countries,” the president says.

The U.S. and Cuba have been negotiating the reestablishment of embassies following the Dec. 17 announcement that they would move to restore ties. Authorities say earlier Wednesday, U.S. Interests Section chief in Havana Jeffrey DeLaurentis hand-delivered a letter from the White House to Cuba about restoring embassies in the countries’ respective capitals. The Cuban Foreign Ministry then announced Havana and Washington will restore full diplomatic relations and reopen embassies July 20.

President Obama’s announcement Wednesday is intended to pave the way for the first real relationship with Cuba since the 1960’s – although obstacles remain before the trade embargo will be lifted.

Secretary of State John Kerry has said previously that he would travel to Cuba for an embassy opening.

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