President Barack Obama says the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington is another demonstration that the U.S. doesn’t have to be imprisoned by the past.
Obama announced the formal restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, calling it a “historic step.”
Obama said Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana over the summer to raise the American flag over the embassy.
Obama said the reopening of a full embassy in Havana means American diplomats will be able to engage directly with Cuban government officials, civil society leaders and ordinary Cubans.
The U.S. president also called on Congress to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He said lawmakers should listen to the Cuban people and the American people who oppose maintaining economic sanctions against the island nation.
Meanwhile, Cuban President Raul Castro said he’s “pleased” to confirm his country will resume diplomatic ties with the United States.
Castro wrote in a letter to President Obama that Cuba is doing so because it is “encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful relations and cooperation between our people and governments.”
However, a separate statement from the government says reopening embassies is just the first step in “a long and complex process toward normalization of bilateral ties.”
It demands an end to the U.S. embargo, the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, a halt to U.S. radio and TV broadcasts aimed at the other island and other grievances.
Castro’s letter and the government statement were read out by a presenter on state television Wednesday morning.