Cuba says John Kerry to host FM on Monday as ties restored

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on Monday to mark the historic reopening of diplomatic ties after a half-century freeze, Cuban officials have said.

Havana: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on Monday to mark the historic reopening of diplomatic ties after a half-century freeze, Cuban officials have said.

Kerry will host Rodriguez at the State Department on the day the two nations formally restore relations, following lightning negotiations to put the two former Cold War foes on the path towards a full normalisation of ties.

Rodriguez will also take part in a formal ceremony at the Cuban interests section in Washington which will reopen as an embassy a minute past midnight Monday, the Cuban foreign ministry said yesterday.

Some 500 invited guests, among them around 30 Cubans, will take part in the ceremony which will see the Cuban flag raised over the building, once visited by legendary revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in April 1959.

There was no immediate confirmation from the State Department of Kerry's schedule for Monday, but spokesman John Kirby said it was expected the top US diplomat for Latin American, Roberta Jacobson, would attend the embassy ceremony in Washington.

The Cuban minister will be accompanied by a large delegation including the deputy speaker of the Cuban parliament Ana Maria Mari and Josefina Vidal, who led the Cuban side in the negotiations with Jacobson to unlock ties after more than five decades.

The American interests section in Havana will also have its status upgraded to that of a full embassy from Monday, but no ceremony is planned as diplomats there await Kerry's arrival some time later in the summer.

Kirby told reporters he did not "have any announcements" about a date for Kerry's visit. "He obviously will go to formally open our embassy at some point in the near future," the US spokesman added.

Cuban President Raul Castro called on his US counterpart Barack Obama Wednesday to use his executive powers to "dismantle" the economic embargo placed on his island nation.

Castro called the embargo, in place since 1962, the main stumbling block towards "normalisation" between the two nations.

Monday "will begin a new stage, long and complex, on the way to the normalisation of relations, which will require finding solutions to problems that have accumulated over more than five decades and affect the ties between our countries and people," Castro said.

Not far from the White House, the three-story limestone Cuban interests section was erected in 1916 to serve as the "Legation of the Republic of Cuba." It began operating the following year.  

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