President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the United States and Cuba have struck a deal to open embassies in each other’s capitals and re-establish diplomatic relations between them for the first time in half a century.
“The progress we make today is another demonstration we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past, the president said.
In making the announcement, the president acknowledged that while there are some shared interest, such as anti-terrorism, there remain serious and profound differences on such issues as human rights and freedom of speech that the two nations continue to have “very serious differences” on, the president said.
The president announced in December that the United States was ending an “outdated approach” of isolating Cuba, and in May the United States dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
This formal step follows Obama’s call to normalize relations and economic ties between the two countries after decades of Cold War hostilities. In another major move, the U.S. said in May it was removing Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Cuba was formally removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on May 29.
The United States severed diplomatic relations with the communist island country in 1961.
The highly anticipated move follows a historic meeting between Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro in Panama at the Summit of the Americas earlier this year. Just before that meeting, the State Department recommended to Obama that Cuba be taken off the list.
It’s another major development in the U.S. relationship with Cuba since the president announced last December plans to restore full relations with Cuba and high-level talks began to open an embassy in Havana. The evolving shift away from Cold War policies that governed the U.S.-Cuba relationship has led to other changes that could be accomplished without approval from Congress.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.