Date set for re-opening of embassies in Washington and Havana

The United States and Cuba have set a tentative date for a renewal of full diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies in each country and an exchange of ambassadors.  Quoting a letter from President Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro, the Cuban Foreign Ministry announced beyond July 20, the option to restore full ties and re-open embassies is acceptable in Havana.

In his White House announcement addressing the opening date, President Obama, flanked by Vice-President Joe Biden, mentioned President Eisenhower’s expectation that relations between the two nations would someday be restored.

Obama said:

“It took a while, but I believe that time has comeWe don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. If something isn’t working, we can and will change.  The best way for America to support our values is through engagement.”

A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters:

We are satisfied with the conditions agreed to, including access to diplomatic facilities, travel of diplomats and the level of staffing. These conditions are acceptable for carrying out the core diplomatic functions necessary for implementing the president’s new policy direction on Cuba.”

Shortly after the ouster of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro assumed control in Havana and imposed a harsh communist dictatorship.  Since 1961, the United States has imposed a firm trade embargo and forbidden travel between the two nations.  Despite one significant international challenge, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and decades of icy relations, the two nations have maintained official diplomatic offices in each capital.  Called “interest” offices, the missions do not qualify as embassies and function as institutions to clarify and manage differences between the two nations.

In the absence of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, disputes were frequently played out in public forums, most often in rancor-filled sessions at the United Nations.