U.S.-Cuba deal to restore ties to be unveiled today
TODAY AT 3:58 AM IN NATIONAL, WORLD
By Matt Spetalnick, Lesley Wroughton and Daniel Trotta
WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) – The United States and Cuba have reached an
agreement to reopen embassies and restore diplomatic ties severed more
than five decades ago, and the historic deal will be unveiled on
Wednesday, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
Nearly 6-1/2 months after U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban
President Raul Castro sealed a diplomatic breakthrough, Obama will
announce the new steps toward rapprochement in the White House Rose
Garden at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
Signaling it is likely to act in sync with the United States, Cuba’s
Communist government said the chief of the U.S. mission, Jeffrey
DeLaurentis, would meet the interim foreign minister in Havana on
Wednesday to deliver a note from Obama to Castro on the re-establishment
of ties between the two former Cold War rivals.
Obama and Castro met in Panama in April.
Both countries can now upgrade their so-called interests sections in
Havana and Washington into full-blown embassies, with ambassadors to be
appointed later. The State Department must give Congress a 15-day notice
before opening an embassy.
“We will formally announce tomorrow that the United States and Cuba have
reached an agreement to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and
open embassies in each other’s capitals,” a senior U.S. official said.
Restoration of ties would be the latest phase in a normalization process
that is expected to move slowly because of lingering problems over
issues such as Cuba’s human rights record, as well as Havana’s desire to
keep a tight rein on Cuba’s society and its state-run economy.
A U.S. economic embargo against Cuba will remain in place, and only
Congress can lift it.
U.S. officials say there is little, if any, chance that hardline
anti-Castro lawmakers in Congress would be able to block the restoration
of ties or reopening of embassies.
But Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican Cuban-American congresswoman from
south Florida, said in a statement: “Opening the American Embassy in
Cuba will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another
trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”
OUTCOME OF TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS
The United States and Cuba began secret negotiations on restoring ties
in mid-2013, leading to the landmark announcement on Dec. 17, 2014, when
Obama and Castro said separately that they had swapped prisoners and
would seek to normalize relations.
That led to a series of meetings in Havana and Washington about
Cuba was formally removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of
terrorism in late May, a critical step toward rapprochement 54 years
after Washington cut off relations at the height of the Cold War and
imposed the embargo.
Obstacles to normalization have included U.S. demands for relative
freedom of movement for their diplomats on the island, comparable to
that in China, Russia and Vietnam, while the Cubans had objected to U.S.
training courses in journalism and information technology given at the
U.S. interests section in Havana.
There were no immediate details on other outstanding differences between
the countries, but Wednesday’s announcement was a clear sign that major
stumbling blocks had been removed.
Sources familiar with the matter said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
was likely to travel to Havana during the week of July 20 for a
flag-raising ceremony to reopen the American embassy.
It was unclear how fast the two sides will act in naming ambassadors,
but those Republicans who oppose U.S.-Cuban detente would be widely
expected to try to block Senate confirmation of Obama’s choice for envoy.
A full-service U.S. mission in Havana could offer some reassurance to
U.S. companies interested in investing in Cuba and also help ease the
way for more – though still heavily restricted – travel to the island by
Obama, a Democrat, has asked the Republican-controlled Congress to lift
the embargo, but the conservative leadership in Congress has resisted
calls to remove what had been a pillar of U.S. foreign policy under nine
Congress is also considering an end to the U.S. travel ban. Obama has
eased restrictions for Americans to conduct authorized travel to Cuba,
but tourism remains illegal.
(Additional reporting by Dan Trotta in Havana; Editing by Tom Brown)
Source: U.S.-Cuba deal to restore ties to be unveiled today | 790 KGMI –