(UPI) — The United States of America and Cuba have formally restored diplomatic relations after 54 years of hostilities inspired by the Cold War. Embassies will be established in Washington D.C. and Havana. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement Wednesday at the White House.
“Today I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba and reopen embassies in our respective countries,” Obama said. “This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and its people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.”
“A year ago it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana,” Obama added. “This is what change looks like.”
Although formal ties have been established, both countries still have mutual problematic concerns that may slow diplomacy.
The United States is concerned with potential human rights abuses by Cuba, urging for Cuban officials to free political prisoners and to cease antagonism toward dissent.
One of Cuba’s main concerns is the U.S. embargo placed on the island nation. Cuba is urging for the embargo to end as soon as possible and perhaps to receive financial compensation for the economic impact it imposed.
In 1961, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower closed the American embassy in Havana, effectively severing diplomatic relations that were steadily deteriorating since Fidel Castro took control of Cuba from the hands of Fulgencio Batista, a U.S. ally, in 1959.
Hostilities where then exacerbated by the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 and the 13-day-long Cuban Missile Crisis that threatened nuclear annihilation in 1962 under former President John F. Kennedy, who earlier imposed a U.S. embargo against Cuba as to reduce “the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers.”
Although facing more than a half century of entrenched political estrangement and animosity, President Obama in December announced a “new course” of American relations with Cuba.
“Isolation has not worked,” Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”
Pope Francis is set to visit both Cuba and the United States in September. The pope’s diplomatic skills were credited with helping the two countries pave the pathway for improved relations.