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‘We are neighbors, now we can be friends’: Obama on reopening of US, Cuban embassies

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama announced the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana for the first time in more than half-a-century, officially sealing the renewal of diplomatic ties begun last year.

"We are neighbors, now we can be friends," said Obama, speaking at length about the failed U.S. policy of isolationism since the two countries broke ties in 1961.

The re-establishing of embassies is a final step in the full diplomatic thaw President Barack Obama initiated in December. Since then, the United States has loosened some travel restrictions to Cuba and allowed for some new economic ties.

View of the US Interest Office in Havana, on December 18, 2014. US President Barack Obama's historic decision to renew ties with Cuba was a diplomatic triumph but he faces a tough battle with Congress over lifting the embargo at the heart of the dispute.   AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE

View of the US Interest Office in Havana, on December 18, 2014. US President Barack Obama's historic decision to renew ties with Cuba was a diplomatic triumph but he faces a tough battle with Congress over lifting the embargo at the heart of the dispute. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE

In April, Obama met with Raul Castro during a summit meeting in Panama, the first time the leaders of Cuba and the United States had met in more than 50 years.

The United States officially removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terror earlier in June, eliminating a remaining stumbling block in the diplomatic renewal.

In Havana, the American embassy will likely occupy the same building where the Interests Section currently operates, White House aides have said. That's the same structure, situated on the Havana waterfront, which housed the American embassy prior to the severing of diplomatic ties after the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s.

Photographers and video journalists were allowed to document the encounter, but neither he nor Cuban officials spoke publicly.

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