July 15, 2015 / 8:44 PM / 2 years ago

Castro sees Cuba, U.S. breaking with past, coexisting in peace

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is prepared to break with the contentious past and peacefully coexist with the United States, Cuban President Raul Castro said on Wednesday as the two former adversaries are set to restore diplomatic ties.

Cuba's President Raul Castro attends a ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

“We are talking about forging a new kind of relationship between both states, different from our entire common history,” Castro, 84, told the Cuban National Assembly, according to official media.

Cuba and the United States will re-establish diplomatic relations on Monday after a 54-year break and reopen embassies in each other’s capitals.

The United States and Cuba began secret negotiations on restoring ties in mid-2013, leading to the historic announcement on Dec. 17, 2014, when Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama said they had swapped prisoners and would seek to normalize relations.

The previous deep freeze in U.S.-Cuba ties dated to Jan. 1, 1959, when rebels led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro toppled the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista. The Castros halted the longtime U.S.-friendly business climate in Cuba and drew ever closer to the Soviet Union.

That led to a troubled history including a failed U.S.-organized invasion of Cuba by a force of exiles in 1961 and a thrust to the brink of nuclear war in 1962 over Soviet missiles stationed in Cuba.

With diplomatic ties restored, the two countries separated by 90 miles (145 km) of sea will now begin the more difficult and lengthy task of normalizing overall relations.

“The revolutionary government is willing to advance toward the normalization of relations, convinced that both countries can cooperate and coexist in a civilized, mutually beneficial way, while contributing to peace, security, stability and development,” Castro said.

Since taking over as president for his ailing brother in 2008, Raul Castro, the longtime defense minister, has proven less bellicose toward America than his brother, now 88 and retired.

Castro said completely normal relations with the United States would be impossible as long as Washington maintains its economic embargo against the island.

“We hope that (Obama) continues to use his executive authority to dismantle this policy,” Castro said.

Obama, a Democrat, has eased parts of the U.S. embargo but would need the Republican-controlled Congress to lift it completely.

Castro also said normalization would require the return to Cuban sovereignty of the U.S. naval base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, although American officials have said Guantanamo is not a topic of discussion in talks with Cuba.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christian Plumb

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