Obama, Cuba announce embassy openings

AP US AL QAIDA HOSTAGES A FILE USA DC(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

WASHINGTON — President Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro said Wednesday that embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., will reopen on July 20.

“This is a historic step forward,” Obama said in a Rose Garden speech.

Castro made a similar announcement in Havana.

A statement from Cuba’s foreign ministry “confirms the decision to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries and open permanent diplomatic missions in their respective capitals, from July 20.”

Obama said Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana later this month to formally re-open the U.S. embassy.

The embassy will enable more American contact with the Cuban people, including travel, educational, and cultural exchanges, Obama said, adding that “I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement.”

The United States’ top diplomat in Cuba, U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis, delivered a letter from the White House to the Cuban government about the renewed embassies.

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