WASHINGTON — One of the last vestiges of the Cold War vanishes today as the United States and Cuba restore diplomatic relations after half a century.
A foreign policy legacy for President Barack Obama has come about at breakneck pace in just a matter of months since the two sides agreed to bury the hatchet and work together as equals.
The shift came after Washington acknowledged that its policy of trying to affect change in Cuba through isolation and trade restrictions had failed, and that engaging Havana directly was a better way to nudge it towards democracy and prosperity.
History will be made at a minute past midnight, as Sunday gives way to Monday.
For the first time since 1961, the Cuban flag will fly over Havana's newly upgraded embassy in Washington, just a stone's throw from the White House.
From the crack of dawn, the standard with a white star inside a red triangle against white and blue stripes will also be raised to take its place in a row of flags from around the world adorning the State Department's imposing marble entrance.
In yet another historic gesture, US Secretary of State John Kerry will also formally receive his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez for talks, before holding a joint press conference around 1:45pm (1745 GMT).
Earlier, Rodriguez will preside over a ceremony to mark the upgrading of the Cuban interests section to a full embassy.
The change began on December 17, as Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro agreed to end their countries' estrangement and put them on track towards a full normalisation of ties.
After a series of negotiations in Havana and Washington, the restoration of diplomatic ties has come about just seven months later. — AFP