“America clinging to a policy that was not working” – Obama calls on Congress to lift the Cuban embargo.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in each other’s capitals, a senior administration official said Tuesday, the biggest step yet toward ending a half century of enmity between the two countries.
President Barack Obama plans to tell the nation on Wednesday that the U.S. will reopen its embassy in Havana, the official said, culminating a central aspiration of his presidency and representing the end of one of the last vestiges of the Cold War more than a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Secretary of State John Kerry will color in details of the U.S. effort, speaking from Vienna on Wednesday about the move to convert the diplomatic post in Havana, known as the U.S. Interests Section, into a full embassy, officials said. He is expected to travel to Cuba in July to oversee the embassy’s reopening.
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U.S. and Cuban leaders stunned the world in December by announcing they would move to normalize relations, setting off a six-month scramble to overcome differences. They held four rounds of talks to re-establish diplomatic ties, with the last meeting in Washington in May. Cuba late that month was formally removed from Washington’s list of sponsors of state terrorism, a critical step toward restoring diplomatic ties.
While Mr. Obama has taken several unilateral steps to advance ties, including removing Cuba from the terrorism list, the latest move is the product of bilateral conversation.
“It’s a big milestone,” said Ted Piccone, a Cuba expert at the Brookings Institution. “This is the first thing we’ve seen since the Dec. 17 agreement that says, ‘We’re jointly agreeing to this step.’”
Officials at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Obama administration officials see the re-establishment of diplomatic ties as the first step in a longer normalization process. Congress would need to act to fully remove an embargo on trade and travel that has been in place since the early 1960s, though Mr. Obama took steps to loosen restrictions in December.
The State Department must formally notify Congress of its intent to reopen the embassy in Havana. Congress then has 15 days to review the notification before the U.S. can go ahead and formally do so.
Read more: WSJ