THE HANDSHAKE THAT BEGAN IT ALL: Obama shakes the hands of President Raul Castro at the funeral of Mandela in South Africa last year.
THE HANDSHAKE THAT CHANGED IT ALL: Obama shakes the hands of President Raul Castro at the funeral of Mandela in South Africa last year.

Cuba and the US have agreed to the “re-establishment of diplomatic relations,” which were broken in 1961, and they have made a commitment to “take mutual measures to improve the bilateral climate,” Cuban President Raul Castro said .

Castro thanked the Vatican and Pope Francis for their support in the “improvement” of relations between Cuba and the US, and the government of Canada for having facilitated the “high-level” dialogue that Havana and Washington carried on secretly for several months.

“As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a telephone conversation that I had yesterday with President Barack Obama, we have been able to make progress in resolving several issues of interest to both nations,” Castro said in an address on state television.

The talks led to the release Wednesday of Alan Gross, an American contractor imprisoned in Cuba for five years, as well as the release by the US of the last three imprisoned members of the “Cuban Five” spy ring.

Cuba swapped “a spy of Cuban origin who had been at the service” of Washington for the three spies imprisoned in the US, Castro said.

Even though Washington and Havana have agreed to move forward and normalise relations, “this does not mean that the principal (issue) has been resolved,” Castro said, calling for an end to the US “economic, trade and financial blockade that causes enormous human and economic damage”.

“Although the blockade measures have been turned into law, the presidente of the United States can modify its implementation by using his executive powers,” the Cuban leader said.

Castro acknowledged that the two countries still had huge differences, “mainly over the areas of national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy,” but Cuba’s government was “willing” to have a dialogue on these matters.

“We are proposing to the government of the United States taking mutual measures to improve the bilateral climate and advance toward normalisation of the ties between our countries based on the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter,” Castro said.

The Cuban leader called on the US in this new atmosphere of dialogue to “remove the obstacles that prevent or restrict the links between our peoples,” especially those relating to travel, direct mail service and telecommunications.



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