The United States and Cuba will announce an agreement Wednesday to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals, formally restoring diplomatic relations more than a half-century after they were ruptured.
WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba will announce an agreement Wednesday to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals, formally restoring diplomatic relations more than a half-century after they were ruptured, according to administration officials.
The agreement represents the most tangible outcome to date of President Obama’s decision to reach out to the island nation and end its decades of isolation. Obama declared in December that he wanted to resume ties with Havana, and the two sides have spent the last six months in painstaking negotiations to work out details of the new embassies.
Obama will announce plans to reopen the embassies at the White House on Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry will also discuss the plans in Vienna, where he is negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in advance of the formal announcement. Kerry plans to travel to Havana for the actual opening of the embassy in July.
President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961 just before leaving office in response to increased tensions with the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. A trade embargo imposed by Eisenhower was then toughened by his successors, and the two neighbors have spent more than 50 years at odds.
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But the thawing of the diplomatic freeze is far from complete, as members of Congress now wrestle with their concerns — and those of influential Republican communities. As the party gears up for a contentious presidential-nomination process, Republicans are staking out positions on issues including the state of human rights in Cuba and broader questions of U.S. immigration policy.
The reopening of embassies would remove Cuba from a dwindling list of countries completely ostracized by the United States. The only other nations with which Washington has no diplomatic relations are Bhutan, Iran and North Korea, although there are other countries with which it has relations but no embassies.
Obama has made the detente with Cuba a central foreign-policy goal of his final two years in office, along with the deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program. While campaigning for president in 2008, he asserted that the United States needed to reach out to its enemies, and those two agreements would represent the culmination of that philosophy.
Cuban and U.S. officials have been negotiating for six months over the diplomatic implications of opening embassies. United States negotiators demanded assurances that U.S. diplomats at an embassy in Havana would be able to move freely around the country and speak with anyone, including opponents of the government.
Cuban officials, who have frequently accused the U.S. of working to undermine the government by aiding dissidents, resisted the request.
Proponents called the establishment of embassies a vital phase in the thaw, one that should be followed by Congress easing travel and commercial restriction.
“Opening embassies in Washington and Havana is an important step toward the day when Americans can make their own decisions on where they travel, and our businesses can compete with the rest of the world,” said James Williams, the president of Engage Cuba, a nonprofit advocacy group pressing for an end to the embargo.