World Bulletin/News Desk
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall reunited Europe, the European Union hailed a "historic turning point" in the Caribbean with the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.
"Today another Wall has started to fall," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. "These moves represent a victory of dialogue over confrontation."
European governments, while critical of Cuban human rights abuses, have long urged Washington to follow them in improving relations with the communist-ruled island, especially since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Cuba's Soviet sponsor.
Mogherini said the EU, which lifted diplomatic sanctions on Cuba in 2008, favoured dialogue. In April, it began negotiations on a cooperation agreement, although Cuba recently put off talks that were due to have discussed human rights.
"Human rights remain at the heart of EU policy towards Cuba," said Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister.
She also thanked Pope Francis for his "wisdom" in helping to mediate between Havana and Washington.
LATIN AMERICA HAILS DESICION
Latin American leaders who for years have pressured the United States to drop its economic embargo against Cuba praised President Barack Obama for moving on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations with its communist-run Cold War foe.
Regional leaders said the move and a U.S.-Cuban prisoner swap would further ease an ideological battle that has divided the Americas for decades, even spurring revolutions and dictatorships.
"We have to recognize President Obama's bold and historic gesture. He has taken perhaps the most important step of his presidency," said President Nicolas Maduro, whose government has supported Cuba with generous supplies of cheap oil.
Two of those presidents, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, said their generation of "fighters for social justice" had thought they would never see diplomatic relations restored between Cuba and the United States.
Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), the regional forum where Cuba's seat has been empty since 1962, said Obama's decision removed a major irritant in Washington's relations with Latin America.
Obama can take steps to weaken the embargo but he can't end it without the support of Congress, and he will face resistance.
Latin American governments had insisted that Cuba be allowed to attend the next OAS summit in Panama in April, meaning Obama had faced a choice of either agreeing to sit down at the same table as Cuban President Raul Castro or staying away.
That dilemma disappeared on Wednesday as both Obama and Castro said in separate televised addresses that they would resume diplomatic relations. They spoke by phone before the announcement and they will meet again in Panama.
Despite the widespread praise for Obama's move, Latin American countries are likely to continue pressuring Washington until it substantially eases or eliminates the trade embargo.
"We hope to see more than today's gestures, that the blockade against Cuba is definitely lifted and relations normalized for the good of the whole region," said Chile's foreign minister, Heraldo Munoz.Last Mod: 18 Aralık 2014, 11:11