United States, Cuba open embassies in Washington D.C. and Havana

Positioned in between the Embassies of Poland and Lithuania and situated on 16th Street in Washington D.C., a street known for diplomatic residences, lavish hotels and luxury apartment complexes, curious onlookers caught a glimpse of an unusual sight not seen in Washington D.C. in over fifty years:  The Cuban flag flying above the former Office of Interest for Cuba.

The gesture, representing the near elimination of a decades-old discord between two Cold War-era adversaries, was equaled by Washington opening a diplomatic building in Havana this morning but without the splendor witnessed by spectators on 16th Street. The U.S. will not formally open their embassy in Havana until an official visit from Secretary of State John Kerry in August.

Commenting on the renewed ties, Mr. Kerry announced:  “Nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past. We’re taking a historic and long overdue step in the right direction.

Of Havana’s opening their embassy, Cuban ambassador, Jose Ramon Cabanas, said:

“In those few seconds, we will feel the whole history of our bilateral ties,” Cabañas said. “The moments when we had no communication, the moments when we had no communications. The first diplomat here and the many who have followed. The visit of Fidel Castro. For us, it is an opportunity to celebrate.”  “He will be present in that moment when we raise our flag and build our relations,” he said. “He had a contribution to this day.”

Notwithstanding the warmer relations, crucial barriers remain:  The Cuban government has persistently called for the decades-old embargo to be lifted and for the U.S. to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba as prerequisites for normalization; Havana re-stated their demands today in a morning press conference with John Kerry.

Present at the re-opening of the Cuban embassy was Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who demanded both countries address essential issues apace.

“I emphasized that the total lifting of the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantánamo, as well as full respect for Cuban sovereignty and compensation to our people for human and economic damages, are crucial to be able to move toward the normalization of relations,” Rodríguez said of his meeting with Kerry.

This is no way to conduct diplomacy.

Instead of acting as an uplifting diplomatic role model engaged in sentimentality, the Cuban Foreign Minister is seething with anger and depositing immoderate ultimatums.

This is, however, the Obama White House and they are familiar with administering foreign policy on their heels.

[Th Guardian] [CNN]