United States President Barack Obama was expected to announce Wednesday an agreement with Cuba to restart diplomatic relations and reopen the embassies in their capitals. Obama was scheduled to debut the historic deal from the Rose Garden at 11 a.m. EDT, with Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuba's foreign ministry due to follow up later Wednesday, CNBC reported.
The news came about six months after Obama's initial decision to normalize relations with Cuba, with which the U.S. severed ties in January 1961. Check the White House's website for a live stream of Wednesday's news conference here.
“It’s a big milestone,” Brookings Institution expert Ted Piccone told the Wall Street Journal. “This is the first thing we’ve seen since the Dec. 17 agreement that says, ‘We’re jointly agreeing to this step.’"
The agreement revolved around the reinstatement of the embassies in each other's capitals, a significant move because the countries currently just have interests sections supervised by Switzerland. Under these rules, American diplomats can't leave Havana and Cuban diplomats can't leave Washington, D.C. without authorization, Agence France Presse reported.
“Opening embassies in Washington and Havana is an important step toward the day when Americans can make their own decisions on where they travel, and our businesses can compete with the rest of the world,” James Williams, the president of nonprofit Engage Cuba, told the New York Times.
Not everyone was so thrilled. GOP presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted that the embassy "will legitimize repression in Cuba, not promote the cause of freedom and democracy."
The infrastructure for the countries' embassies already exists. The U.S. could operate out of the old embassy building along Havana's Malecón waterfront, though it has indicated the offices would need a $6.6 million makeover, the Times reported. Kerry will visit there July 22. Cuba, meanwhile, could expand its facilities in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C.