US and Cuba restore full diplomatic relations after more than 50 years

Credit: Reuters

More than five decades of Cold War enmity have come to an end as the United States and Cuba restore full diplomatic relations.

The new era of US-Cuba relations began today with little fanfare in Washington and Havana as the terms of an agreement resuming full ties from midnight local time came into force.

The Cuban flag will be hung quietly in the lobby of the US State Department alongside those of other nations with which America has diplomatic relations.

The shift will be memorialised publicly later when Cuban officials formally reopen their embassy in Washington.

US secretary of state John Kerry will then meet his Cuban counterpart and address reporters at a joint news conference.

The US Interests Section in Havana plans to announce its upgrade to embassy status in a written statement, but the Stars and Stripes will not fly at the mission until Mr Kerry visits in August for a ceremonial flag-raising.

And yet, though normalisation has taken centre stage in the US-Cuba relationship, there remains a deep ideological gulf between the nations and many issues still to resolve. Among them are thorny disputes such as over mutual claims for economic reparations, Havana's insistence on the end of the 53-year-old trade embargo and US calls for Cuba to improve on human rights and democracy.

Some US politicians, including several prominent Republican presidential candidates, have vowed not to repeal the embargo and pledged to roll back US president Barack Obama's moves on Cuba.