WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) –

The United States on Wednesday announced a “historic” thaw in relations with Cuba, saying it would work to re-establish diplomatic ties with Havana and ease long-standing trade and travel sanctions.

Washington will re-establish an embassy in Havana “in the coming months,” a senior administration official said after a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

Obama was due to make a policy announcement at the White House shortly after noon Cuban President Raul Castro was set to make a speech at the same time.

The pair spoke on Tuesday to discuss the plans for the release of US national Alan Gross and three Cubans held in the United States in exchange for a “US intelligence asset,” the official said.

“The president also made clear his intent to pursue these policy changes but also to continue our advocacy for human rights in Cuba,” the officials said.

The United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba — the Cold War foe closest to its shores — in 1960 and the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961.


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