Obama announces embassy opening in Cuba, calls on Congress to lift embargo
Iran Press TV
Wed Jul 1, 2015 4:4PM
President Barack Obama has called on Congress to lift the United States decades-old embargo on Cuba after he announced that Washington and Havana will open embassies in each other's countries.
'This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,' Obama said in a press conference on Wednesday.
'Later this summer, Secretary John Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more,' he said.
'The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past,' the US president added.
In December, the president announced that Washington was ending an 'outdated approach' of isolating Cuba. Consequently, the United States dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in May.
During a press conference in Vienna, Kerry also praised restoring relations with Cuba.
"The resumption of full embassy activities will help us engage the Cuban Government more often and at a higher level, and it will also allow our diplomats to interact more frequently, and frankly more broadly and effectively, with the Cuban people," Kerry said.
"In addition, we will better be able to assist Americans who travel to the island nation in order to visit family members or for other purposes," he said on Wednesday.
Cuba's President Raul Castro also confirmed the normalization of relations in a letter to Obama.
'I am pleased to address this letter to you to confirm that Cuba has decided to reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States and open permanent diplomatic missions in our respective countries, on July 20, 2015,' read the letter.
'In making this decision, Cuba is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments,' it added.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after Raul's older brother, Fidel Castro, came to power. One year later, it imposed an official embargo against Havana.
The Republican-dominated Congress has so far refused Obama's request to lift the longstanding embargo.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday condemned the Obama administration's decision over restoring ties with Cuba.
"As I've said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom - and not one second sooner," he said.
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