Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17 announced that his country is normalising its relations with the US after 53 years of interruption.

The decision was made after a series of secret high-level negotiations between the two sides, including a nearly-one-hour telephone talk between President Raul Castro and his US counterpart Barack Obama.

“We agree to restore relations with the US after more than half of a century,” Castro told his country in Havana the same day.

The leader expressed his thanks to the Vatican and Pope Francis for their intermediary role in bridging the two countries, as well as the Canadian Government for assisting Cuba and the US in organising the negotiations.

He also revealed that three Cuban intelligence agents who were detained in the US returned Cuba on December 17 morning as part of an exchange deal, while a US national, Alan Gross, and a Cuban spy serving the US Government were also released.

However, he highlighted that US’ trade embargo against the Caribbean island country, which was applied in 1960, had yet been removed. The two countries terminated their diplomatic ties in 1961.

Meanwhile, Obama said from Washington that a “new chapter” opened for the relations between his country and Cuba .

He said he will discuss with the US Congress on the entire removal of the embargo against Cuba, adding that he assigned Secretary of State John Kerry to talk with the Cuban side to conduct activities to normalise the bilateral relations.

The move was lauded by public opinions in both the US and Cuba . The majority of US people hailed Obama’s decision to restore relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana, urging the US Congress to revoke embargo against the island country.-VNA