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Kerry: Cuba embassy reopening 'a truly historic moment'

US Secretary of State John Kerry at the flag-raising ceremony at the embassy

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the reopening of the recently restored American Embassy in Havana "is a truly historic moment".

He said: "As we prepare to raise the United States flag here at our embassy in Havana, symbolising the reestablishment of diplomatic relations after 54 years, this is also the first time that a United States Secretary of State has been to Cuba since 1945".

It comes after the two countries formally renewed diplomatic relations and upgraded their diplomatic missions to embassies almost a month ago.

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US removes Cuba from state sponsors of terror list

The US and Cuba are working together to restore diplomatic ties. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

The US has formally dropped Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism as the country continues efforts to restore diplomatic ties with the Communist-ruled island.

President Barack Obama had announced on April 14th he would drop the former Cold War rival from the list, initiating a 45-day review period for Congress that expired today.

Obama ordered a review of Cuba's status on the terrorism list as part of a landmark policy shift.

The move followed a meeting in December between the US President and Cuba's leader Raul Castro where they announced they would seek to restore diplomatic relations that Washington severed in 1961, and work toward a broader normalisation of ties.

Cuba had cited its listing as a state terrorism sponsor, which had been in place since 1982, as an obstacle to the re-establishing of diplomatic relations.

The two sides have held four rounds of high level negotiations since December and say they are closing in on a deal to reopen embassies in Havana and Washington.

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Pope meets Castro ahead of Cuba visit

Pope Francis has met with Cuban President Raul Castro today, ahead of his planned visit to the island nation later this year.

Pope Francis has met with Cuban President Raul Castro Credit: REUTERS/Gregorio

The pope granted Castro a rare Sunday audience at the Vatican as the Cuban President passed through Rome on his way back from Moscow.

Although the issues discussed by the Pope and Castro during their meeting were not disclosed the pontiff could be heard telling his visitor there was a "need to work together to fight poverty around the world" during a subsequent photo call.

Cuba: 'Fair decision' by Obama over terrorist states list

Cuba recognised what it called a "fair decision" by US President Barack Obama to inform Congress he intends to remove Cuba from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Cuban President Raul Castro with US President Barack Obama. Credit: Reuters

"The Cuban government recognised the fair decision made by the president of the United States to eliminate Cuba from a list that it never should have been included on, especially considering our country has been the victim of hundreds of acts of terrorism that have cost 3,478 lives and maimed 2,099 citizens," said the statement by Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry's chief of US affairs.

Obama and Castro in phone call ahead of symbolic meeting

US President Barack Obama has already spoken with Cuban President Raul Castro ahead of their symbolic meeting in Panama.

A Cuban official confirmed the two leaders shared a phone call on Wednesday as the countries work to mend once bitter Cold War relations.

President Obama met Raul Castro briefly at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in December 2013. Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Mr Obama and Mr Castro, who have only previously met briefly and informally, will share the same stage with other leaders at a regional summit in Panama later today.

It is the first time a US president has held a formal meeting with a Cuban leader since Mr Castro's older brother Fidel Castro toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in a 1959 revolution.

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