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In another symbol of thawing ties, Kerry to raise U.S. flag at restored Havana embassy

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'Some progress' made in peace talks: John Kerry
'Some progress' made in peace talks: John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Cuba on Friday to raise the U.S. flag at the recently restored American embassy in Havana, another symbolic step in the thawing of relations between the two Cold War-era foes.

The ceremony, raising the flag over the building for the first time in 54 years, comes nearly four weeks after the United States and Cuba formally renewed diplomatic relations and upgraded their diplomatic missions to embassies.

While the Cubans celebrated with a flag-raising in Washington on July 20, the Americans waited until Kerry could travel to Havana.

Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years, will be accompanied by aides, members of Congress and three U.S. Marines who last lowered the flag there in January 1961. Washington severed diplomatic ties with Havana as relations soured soon after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

The seven-story seafront building in Havana and Cuba’s mansion in Washington were closed from 1961 until 1977, when they reopened as interests sections.

Seeking to end the long hostilities, Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced last December they would restore diplomatic ties, reopen embassies and work to normalize relations.

Obama has also used executive power to relax some U.S. travel and trade restrictions, but the Republican-controlled Congress has resisted his call to end America’s wider economic embargo.

“More people will travel. There will be more exchange. More families will be reconnected. And hopefully, the government of Cuba will itself make decisions that will begin to change things.”

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