WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba will announce an agreement Wednesday to open embassies in each other’s capitals, formally re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will make the announcement Wednesday morning, said the three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to allow the president to make the formal announcement.
Obama has made rapprochement with Cuba a key part of his second-term agenda, arguing that 55 years of freezing out the Communist country has been counterproductive to establishing human rights on the Caribbean island nation.
With some initial help from Pope Francis, the United States and Cuba have been negotiating the move for more than a year, going public with their diplomatic efforts last December. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met personally in Panama in April.
Obama cleared the way for a normalization of relations a month ago when he removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list. But a key sticking point after three rounds of embassy talks through the spring has been freedom of movement for U.S. diplomats in Cuba.
The president hinted at progress earlier on Wednesday, as he hosted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the White House.
“I very much appreciate President Rousseff and Brazil’s strong support for our new opening toward Cuba. I updated Dilma on our progress, including our work to open embassies in Havana and Washington,” Obama said. “And I believe that Brazil’s leadership in the region, as well as its own journey to democracy and a market economy can make it an important partner as we work to create more opportunities and prosperity for the Cuban people.”