U.S. President, Barack Obama, on Wednesday called on the U.S. Congress to lift the trade embargo on Cuba as he moves to re-establish diplomatic relations with the communist island.
“This is about a choice between the future and the past”, Obama said, adding that the re-opening of embassies between the nations marks a `new chapter in relations with our neighbours.’
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to travel to Havana later in this summer to formally reopen the US embassy there, Obama said.
The U.S. and Cuba are set to announce the restoration of diplomatic relations the result of a two-year courtship between former Cold War rivals who severed ties in 1961.
The senior U.S. diplomat in Havana on Wednesday delivered a letter from President Barack Obama addressed to Cuban President, Raul Castro, about the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The text of the letter was not immediately disclosed.
Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chief of the U.S. Interests Section, handed the letter to Cuba’s interim foreign minister, Marcelino Medina, at the Cuban Foreign Ministry. The two shook hands in front of a Cuban and a U.S. flag.
Obama was due to speak at 11 a.m. from the White House’s ceremonial Rose Garden. It was unknown whether Castro would reciprocate with comments of his own.
The Cuba deal marks a major achievement for Obama, who has been criticised for foreign policy stumbles, especially in the Middle East.
It follows his recent victory in a congressional fight for fast-track authority that could undergird a landmark Asia trade deal and comes as Washington appears to be on the cusp of a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Following 18 months of secret negotiations brokered by Pope Francis and Canada, the two leaders announced separately but simultaneously in December that they planned to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals and normalise relations.