US, Cuba quiety resume diplomatic ties after 54 years

July 20, 2015 13:36
It all began with an unscripted encounter between President Barack Obama (left) and Raul Castro in April last year. In December, they announced the normalization of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba, Photo: Reuters

A new era of diplomatic relations quietly began for the United States and Cuba as they reopened embassies in each other's capitals.

At the stroke of midnight on Monday, Washington and Havana formally ended 54 years of animosity and ushered in a new phase of post-Cold War relations.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the normalization of diplomatic ties on Dec. 17.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was to preside over the raising of the Cuban flag over a mansion that will again serve as Havana's embassy in Washington, according to Reuters.

The hugely symbolic event will be followed by a meeting at the State Department between Secretary of State John Kerry and Rodriguez, the first Cuban foreign minister on an official visit to Washington since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

The US embassy in Havana will also reopen but no American flag will fly there until a visit by Kerry expected next month.

"We wanted the secretary to be there to oversee these important events," a State Department official said.

Differences remain and efforts toward full normalization are expected to proceed slowly.

Monday's steps culminated more than two years of negotiations between governments that had long shunned each other.

More than 500 people will attend the Cubans' festivities in Washington, including members of Congress.

No invitations went out to hardline anti-Castro lawmakers. The US delegation will be headed by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson.

Kerry and Rodriguez last met in April at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, where Obama and Castro also held talks.

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