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Progress made in relationship with Cuba: Obama

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Washington: Progress has been made in America’s relationship with Cuba but differences continue to persist, US President Barack Obama today said on the occasion of first anniversary of the restoration of relationship between the two countries.

“Today, the Stars and Stripes again fly over our Embassy in Havana. Today, more Americans are visiting Cuba and engaging the Cuban people than at any time in the last 50 years,” Obama said in a statement.

“We continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but we raise those issues directly, and we will always stand for human rights and the universal values that we support around the globe,” he said.

Observing that change does not happen overnight, and normalisation will be a long journey, Obama said in the last 12 months, however, are a reminder of the progress “we can make when we set” the course toward a better future.

“Over the next year, we will continue on this path, empowering Cubans and Americans to lead the way,” he said.

Obama said one year ago, he announced that after more than 50 years, America would change its relationship with Cuba and put the interests of the people of both countries before the outdated ways of the past.

“Since then, we have taken important steps forward to normalise relations between our countries—re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies, facilitating greater travel and commerce, connecting more Americans and Cubans and promoting the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba,” he said.

“We are advancing our shared interests and working together on complex issues that for too long defined—and divided—us. Meanwhile, the United States is in a stronger position to engage the people and governments of our hemisphere.

Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy,” Obama said.

The US also announced the start of commercial flights between the two countries. The move is the latest in a series of steps taken to cool off tensions between the two countries. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla travelled to Washington in July to re-open Cuba’s US Embassy, and Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Cuba a month later to re-open the US Embassy there for the first time since 1961.

And in April, Obama met for an hour with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, the first time the two nations’ top leaders sat down for substantive talks in more than 50 years.

But not all Cold War vestiges have been cast off — the US embargo remains in place with support from Republican lawmakers who have railed against President Obama’s efforts to renew relations with Cuba.

PTI