US and Cuban foreign ministers to meet in Washington on Monday

By REUTERS
July 17, 2015 21:28
1 minute read.

 
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US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington on Monday, the State Department said on Friday, as the two countries formally restore diplomatic ties severed more than 50 years ago.

Rodriguez will be in Washington for the reopening of the Communist state's embassy, a hugely symbolic step in the thawing of relations between the countries initiated by President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro in December.

The US embassy in Havana is expected to formally reopen in August and Kerry is widely expected to visit the country on that occasion.

State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Kerry and Rodriguez would hold a news conference after their meeting.

The two also met in April for at least two hours during the Summit of the Americas in Panama, at which Obama and Raul Castro also held talks.

Obama's decision to move toward restoring full diplomatic ties followed decades of mutual antagonism after US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island on Jan. 1, 1959, as Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries seized control.

John Foster Dulles and Gonzalo Guell were the last US and Cuban foreign ministers to hold a formal meeting in Washington on Sept. 22, 1958, a US official said.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations in 1961 and imposed a tough trade embargo that Cuba blames for many of its economic problems.

Obama has already relaxed some trade and travel restrictions but only the Republican-controlled Congress can overturn the embargo, and the US president faces fierce opposition from some lawmakers.

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