WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States and Cuba made a historic breakthrough in their Cold War stand-off Wednesday, moving to revive diplomatic ties and ease a five-decade US trade embargo against its communist foe.
In the wake of a prisoner exchange, US officials said President Barack Obama was ready to negotiate terms for re-opening the American embassy in Cuba that has been closed since 1961.
Obama spoke to his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro by telephone, and both leaders were to make addresses at 1700 GMT outlining the next steps in an epochal thaw in relations.
“It is clear that decades of US isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” the White House said.
“Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas,” it said, in a statement released to introduce Obama’s speech, and confirming that talks will begin on re-establishing full diplomatic ties.
“We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.”
In Havana, state television said that Castro – brother of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel – would also make a speech.
US officials said that Pope Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, had played a key role in brokering the rapprochement.