The two countries each plan to reopen their embassies, the president stated.
“This is a historic step for our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government, and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” Obama said.
The U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961, during the Eisenhower administration.
According to the president, the U.S. would be ending the “outdated approach” of isolating Cuba, and, in May, Obama said the U.S. had removed Cuba from its state sponsors of terror list.
Currently, he said, many Cubans have asked for increased U.S. engagement within the country. And, as a result, the president said it was time to move forward.
“You don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” Obama stated. “If something isn’t working, we can, and will, change.”
The president said re-establishing the country’s relationship with Cuba, and economic ties, would allow the U.S. to address human rights issues that go against America’s policies.
“We will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values,” he stated.
In addition, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said Cuba will officially restore diplomatic relations with the U.S. on July 20, and will open its embassy in Washington the same day.
Reportedly, the U.S. is still determining a date to open its embassy in Cuba; however, according to Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the event.
The move to normalize relations has followed a historic meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas, in Panama, earlier this year. The meeting marked the first time leaders from the two countries met in decades.
Recently, although Congress had shown little interest in removing U.S. legislative restrictions regarding Cuba, Obama had sought to ease those regulations, without approval from Congress.