World lauds US-Cuba bilateral move to restore ties
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JPNN| London | Dec 18, 2014|World community today hailed as a "historical turning point" the surprise move by the US to end more than 50 years of hostility towards Communist Cuba and restore diplomatic relations. Leading the global praise, Pope Francis sent "warm congratulations" to US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro for overcoming "the difficulties which have marked their recent history". The announcement of the deal and the release of prisoners from both countries followed more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving the Pope, the first Latin

American pontiff. Obama discussed Cuba with the Pope during his visit to the Vatican in March and continued to work with the Holy See thereafter. US-Cuban ties have been frozen since the early 1960s. President Obama yesterday said the "rigid and outdated policy" of isolating Cuba since then had clearly failed and that it was time for a new approach. Castro, meanwhile, has urged the US to ends its trade embargo, which has been in place since the Cuba turned to Communism more than 50 years ago. The European Union, which is in the process of normalising ties with Cuba, described the US-Cuba move as a "historical turning point".

"Today another Wall has started to fall," said EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini, adding that the 28-member bloc hoped ultimately to be able to "expand relations with all parts of Cuban society". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the decision to normalise relations, saying the move will help expand people-to-people exchanges between the two nations. "This news is very positive. As much of the membership of the UN has repeatedly emphasised, it is time that Cuba and the US normalise bilateral relations," Ban told reporters in his end of year press conference. The United Nations General Assembly has been tabling a resolution for over 20 years calling for an end to the US' economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba.

This year India also was among 188 nations that voted in favour of the resolution, which for the 23rd year in a row called for an end to the embargo. Latin American leaders gathered at a regional summit in Argentina broke into applause hearing the news. Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz hailed the move as "the beginning of the end of the Cold War in the Americas". Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose predecessor Hugo Chavez was a close ally of Fidel Castro, said it was a "moral victory" and "victory for Fidel". China also welcomed the decision and hoped that the US will lift its economic embargo on Cuba.

"China welcomes and supports the normalisation of Cuba-US bilateral ties, and we hope that the US can lift its embargo on Cuba as early as possible," Qin Gang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said at a regular media briefing in Beijing. "We cherish our friendship with Cuba, and as we always do, we will continue to support Cuba's choice in their development path." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose country never broke off ties with Cuba, welcomed what he called the "overdue development".

Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the move was "of great significance" and urged Cuba to improve its rights record. "This future can only be built on the basis of respect for democracy and human rights," he said. German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the breakthrough "very good news in these times rich with conflict". But the move was not applauded by everyone, with dozens of Cubans living in exile in the US state of Florida protesting after the announcement yesterday.

"It is a betrayal. The talks are only going to benefit Cuba," Carlos Munoz Fontanil said at a protest in Miami's Calle Ocho. As part of the deal, US contractor Alan Gross, 65, was released from Cuban prison in return for three Cubans held in the US. President Obama said the US was looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. Officials said that Obama and Castro spoke by telephone on Tuesday for nearly an hour - the first presidential-level talks between the two nations since Cuba's 1959 revolution. In exchange for Gross, who was in poor health, and an unnamed American intelligence officer, Washington released three members of the so-called "Cuban Five" who were serving lengthy sentences for espionage. Gross's five-year imprisonment had undermined previous attempts to thaw diplomatic relations between the two countries.Agency

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