Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yahoo News: After Alan Gross release, Obama seeks to resume full diplomatic ties with Cuba

A history-making change to a Cold War conflict

Olivier Knox
Yahoo News
In a move to wipe away one of the Cold War's last vestiges, President Barack Obama will launch negotiations with Cuba on resuming full diplomatic relations five decades after they broke off, a U.S. official told Yahoo News on Wednesday. Obama's decision comes after Cuba freed U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross.

The official, who did not set a timetable for when embassies might open in Washington and Havana, said Obama would announce his plans in a midday speech at the White House. The president was reportedly also set to announce changes to U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Cuba at the height of the Cold War follwing Fidel Castro's revolution, and to order a review of Cuba's place on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The scope of the policy shift was a surprise, but the Obama Administration had previewed the potential change when longtime Obama foreign policy aide Antony Blinken testified in a Senate hearing in November on his confirmation to the number-two job at the State Department. Blinken was confirmed Tuesday.

Gross had been sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison in connection with an effort to create a communications network outside Cuban government control. Cuba freed him on humanitarian grounds as part of a broader deal that saw each side free intelligence assets.

The United States and Cuba have had no embassies -- or ambassadors -- since 1961. Each side has an "interests section" housed in another country's embassy.

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