Marking a big-ticket breakthrough in strained ties between the once sworn enemies, the US and Cuba have decided to move beyond the baggage of past and agreed to reopen embassies in each other’s capital on July 20, as they looked to re-establish diplomatic dialogues ceased since 1961.
US President Barack Obama underlined that it was time to revive the ties, as the two nations shared some common interests, including strong anti-terrorism policies and disaster response.
Speaking at the White House Rose Garden in Washington D.C. on July 1, the president said that the latest development showed that the US and Cuban citizens were no longer “imprisoned by past”.
“The progress we make today is another demonstration we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama, however, struck a cautionary note, saying that the two nations still have “very serious differences” on issues like free speech. “We won’t hesitate to speak out when we see contradiction to those values,” the president said.
Earlier, a US diplomat delivered a letter from Mr Obama to Cuba’s President Raul Castro about restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries. In return, Mr Castro also sent a letter saying, “We want to develop a friendship between our two nations that is based on the equality of rights and the people’s free will.”
The US-Cuba relations had been strained since 1961 after the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. But the two presidents made an announcement in December last year to normalise relations and end the decades of hostility and accumulated ill-will.
Mr Castro hoped to resolve differences with America through peaceful means. He said that the two countries must respect the territorial integrity of each other, and there should not be any interference in each other’s political affairs.
However, the Cuban Foreign Ministry indicated that there are still some lingering obstacles in US-Cuba bilateral relations owing to the embargo imposed on Cuba by the US.
“There could be no normal relations between Cuba and the United States as long as the economic, commercial and financial blockade continues to be fully implemented,” it said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry called the resumption of relations an important step and announced to travel to Cuba later this year to participate in the formal reopening of the U.S. Embassy.
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