US, Cuba to sign pact to restore regular flights

Obama-Raul

Taking the renewal of diplomatic relations forward, the US and Cuba will sign a bilateral agreement on February  16 to restore regular flights between the two countries. This comes after more than half a century.

“While US law prohibits travel to Cuba for tourist activities, this arrangement will facilitate authorized travel,” the State Department said in a statement on February 12.

Stressing on the plans to resume the flights in December, the US announced the decision on the first anniversary of the start of reconciliation between Washington and Havana. According to the new arrangement, airlines in the two countries can now enter  into agreements in  areas such as code-sharing and aircraft leasing, the Cuban Embassy.

The State Department said flights are expected to be re-established later this year. It also said that it will “enhance traveler choices and strengthen people-to-people links between the two countries.”

All commercial flights between Cuba and the United States were cancelled 53 years ago after the breakdown of diplomatic relations.  However, since the mid-1970s authorized charter flights have been allowed under certain conditions.

According to the State Department, the new arrangement “will continue to allow charter flight operations.”

As the US gears up to elect a new government at the end of year, it would be a test of relations between the two countries to see how the relationship progresses in case a government not favourably disposed towards Cuba gets elected. The renewal of diplomatic ties between US and Cuba has been one of President Barack Obama’s major foreign policy accomplishments.

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