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US state secretary goes to Cuba first time since 1945

August 14, 2015, 9:26 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

John Kerry will hoist the country’s flag over the newly opened US Embassy to Cuba

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© AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

WASHINGTON, August 14. /TASS/. US Secretary of State John Kerry will on Friday, August 14, hoist the country’s flag over the newly opened US Embassy to Cuba. This ceremony will be the final one in the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

John Kerry will be the first secretary of state visiting CubaUS s since 1945. The US delegation will consist of 20 people, including diplomats, White House officials and congressmen.

As for official meetings, Kerry intends to hold negotiations with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Talks with President Raul Castro are not on the program.

A reception will be held at the residence of the US ambassador, to which officials, diplomats, cultural activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, human rights activists and representatives of independent media have been invited.

Washington repeatedly maintained earlier that the situation with civil rights on the island was still causing concern and the issue would be discussed with the Cuban authorities after the diplomatic relations were restored.

From July 20, American diplomats have a possibility to relatively freely travel across the country. The process of normalization of US-Cuban relations started in December 2014 after Cuban authorities set free US national Alan Gross.

Since then, apart from reopening diplomatic missions, the US has lifted some restrictions in bilateral trade, although only the Congress can fully lift the embargo that has been in place against Cuba for more than 50 years. A bill has already been submitted, but the opposition Republican Party is strongly against this.

Cuba, for its part, says normalization is out of the question as long as trade, economic and financial blockade continues, Guantanamo Bay remains occupied by a US naval base, illegal broadcasting as well as subversive activity against the Cuban government continue. Havana insists on compensation to the Cuban people for the damage from the blockade. Cuban experts put the damage at $121 billion.

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