US and Cuba restore ties by opening embassies

Full diplomatic ties officially restored as embassies open after 54 years of enmity between countries.

    The United States and Cuba have reopened embassies in each other's countries for the first time in 54 years in a move that officially restores their full diplomatic ties.

    Cuba on Monday was to open its Washington mission with a ceremony attended by hundreds of guests, while the US was to restore its former Havana mission, which has operated under the auspices of the Swiss embassy, into a fully-fledged US embassy after midnight on Sunday.

    Presidents Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro exchanged letters last month agreeing to unfreeze ties on July 20, when the embassies could be reopened.

    US-Cuba relations: Breaking with the past

    Obama - who was born the year the US embassy was closed, in 1961 - then hailed the deal as an "historic step forward" that would end a failed and archaic US policy of isolating the island.

    Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Havana, described the decision as "a long-awaited game changer".

    "This week's renewal of diplomatic relations does not erase political differences but psychologically it raises the curtain for most Cubans," she said.

    Obama ordered a review of Cuba's status on the US' state sponsors of terrorism list as part of a landmark policy shift in December when he and Castro announced they would work towards a broader normalisation of ties.

    Will Havana survive or become 'just another city'?

    The announcement followed a half-century of enmity, a crippling economic embargo, CIA assassination plots and a Cuban missile crisis.

    The presidents then met in April at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City in the first meeting between the countries' leaders in decades and announced a "turning point" towards warmer relations.

    The United States formally dropped Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism the following month, and has since announced moves to allow increased trade and travel between the countries.

    Larry Luxner, the editor of the Washington Diplomat, said it was clear from recent developments in the US' relationship with Iran and Cuba, that Obama wanted to leave a legacy of improved diplomatic ties.

    "It's a new approach by the White House of wanting to correct the wrongs of the past," he told Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    There are a number of reasons why Beijing continues to back Maduro's government despite suffering financial losses.