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US, Cuba announce historic thaw in ties

Update: December, 18/2014 - 10:00

WASHINGTON – The United States and Cuba have moved to end five decades of Cold War, agreeing to revive diplomatic ties in a breakthrough that would also ease a crippling US trade embargo.

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday Washington was ready for a "new chapter" in relations with Cuba and would re-establish its embassy in Havana, shuttered since 1961.

"We are all Americans," Obama declared, breaking into Spanish for a speech that the White House portrayed as a bid to reassert US leadership in the Western Hemisphere.

Cuba's President Raul Castro, speaking at the same time in Havana, confirmed that the two countries had "agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties" after a half century of rancor.

"President Obama's decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people," Castro said, while warning that the embargo – which he calls a "blockade" – must still be lifted.

In Washington, Obama admitted the US trade ban had failed and said he would urge Congress to lift it, while using his presidential authority to advance diplomatic and travel links.

"We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalise relations between our two countries," Obama said.

"Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas."

Obama later raised the hitherto unthinkable prospect of a US president embarking on a visit to Cuba, saying nothing was ruled out.

"I don't have any current plans, but let's see how things evolve," Obama told ABC's "World News Tonight" in an exclusive interview. — AFP

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