US, Cuba reach agreement to open embassies

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AP Source: US, Cuba to Announce Embassy Openings Wednesday

President Barack Obama is expected to announce the agreement Wednesday at the White House. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is scheduled to open later this month.

The U.S. and Cuba have been negotiating the re-establishment of embassies following a surprise December announcement that secret talks had led to an agreement to restart diplomatic relations.

For Obama, ending the U.S. freeze with Cuba is central to his foreign policy legacy as he nears the end of his presidency. Obama has long touted the value of direct engagement with global foes and has argued that the U.S. embargo on the communist island just 90 miles south of Florida was ineffective.

Check out the pictures from Obama and Castro's meeting:

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Cuba, US embassies
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US, Cuba reach agreement to open embassies
The Cuban flag is raised over their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. Cuba's blue, red and white-starred flag was hoisted Monday at the country's embassy in Washington in a symbolic move signaling the start of a new post-Cold War era in U.S.-Cuba relations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, center, raises the Cuban flag over their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations Monday after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
A member of a Cuban honor guard salutes as Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, center, prepares to raise the Cuban flag over their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. Cuba's blue, red and white-starred flag was hoisted Monday at the country's embassy in Washington in a symbolic move signaling the start of a new post-Cold War era in U.S.-Cuba relations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Workers at the US Department of State add the Cuban flag at to the display of flags inside the main entrance at 202 'C' Street at 4am local time (0800 GMT) in Washington, DC on July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba formally resumed diplomatic relations on July 20, as the Cuban flag was raised at the US State Department in a historic gesture toward ending decades of hostility between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
The last Cuban flag that was lowered from the Cuban Embassy in Washington on January 3, 1961 when relations between the United States and Cuba were severed, hangs in their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations Monday after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
A Cuban flag flies among empty flag polls near the U.S. Interests Section building, behind, in Havana, Sunday, July 19, 2015. Washington and Havana plan to officially restore diplomatic relations on Monday with the reopening of their embassies. While no formal ceremony is planned Monday for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, it too will become a full-fledged embassy just after midnight as the Cold War foes formally enter a new era of engagement. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A workman at the US Department of State add the Cuban flag at to the display of flags inside the main entrance at 202 'C' Street at 4am local time (0800 GMT) in Washington, DC on July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba formally resumed diplomatic relations on July 20, as the Cuban flag was raised at the US State Department in a historic gesture toward ending decades of hostility between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Edwardo Clark, a Cuban-American, holds an American flag and a Cuban flag as he celebrates outside the new Cuban embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations Monday after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The last Cuban flag that was lowered from the Cuban Embassy in Washington on January 3, 1961 when relations between the United States and Cuba were severed, hangs in their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. The United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations Monday after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
A man waves the US and Cuban flags as he walks in front of the new Cuban Embassy shortly before it's official ceremonial opening July 20, 2015, in Washington, DC. The United States and Cuba formally resumed diplomatic relations on July 20, as the Cuban flag was raised at the US State Department in a historic gesture toward ending decades of hostility between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama(R) speaks along side Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama announced plans to reopen the US Embassy in Havana in an effort to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cold War enemy Cuba. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe R. Biden listens while US President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House July 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama announced plans to reopen the US Embassy in Havana in an effort to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cold War enemy Cuba. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) speaks with US President Barack Obama (R) on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro during a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama, right, speaks as he joins other world leaders for the opening plenary of the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. Listening to Obama's remarks is Cuban President Raul Castro, center, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, left. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro, right, shakes hands with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, center, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, looks on during the official group photo of the Summit of the Americas, in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. In a speech to world leaders at the opening plenary session, Castro absolved President Barack Obama of fault for the U.S. blockade in a stunning reversal of more than 50 years of animosity between the United States and Cuba. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) gestures as he speaks with US President Barack Obama (R) on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during their meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro cups his ears to better hear a question shouted out at him during the official group photo of the VII Summit of the Americas, in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. In a speech to world leaders at the opening plenary session, Castro absolved President Barack Obama of fault for the U.S. blockade in a stunning reversal of more than 50 years of animosity between the United States and Cuba. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a civil society forum in the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, at a hotel in Panama City on April 10, 2015. Obama told a forum of Latin American civil society members in Panama on Friday that the days of American meddling in the region were over. 'The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity -- those days are passed,' Obama said hours before the start of the 35-nation Summit of the Americas, where he is coming face-to-face with Cuban leader Raul Castro amid their diplomatic thaw. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right middle row, and Cuban President Raul Castro, left middle row, and other world Leaders participates in the inauguration ceremony of the Summit of the Americas arrival ceremony in Panama City, Panama, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro talks at reporters before turning to leave the staging area of the official group photo of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. Castro is flanked by his personal assistant and grandson, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, and Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves. Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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A senior Obama administration official confirmed the embassy planning. The official insisted on anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter ahead of the president.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Vienna for nuclear negotiations with Iran, is also expected to speak about the embassy openings. Kerry has said previously that he would travel to Cuba for an embassy opening.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday evening that it would meet with U.S. Interests Section chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis on Wednesday morning to receive a message from Obama about reopening embassies.

The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution. The U.S. spent decades trying to either actively overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening the economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Since the late 1970s, the United States and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called interests sections in each other's capitals. The missions are technically under the protection of Switzerland, and do not enjoy the same status as embassies.

Check out some pics from Old Havana, Cuba:

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Old Havana Cuba
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US, Cuba reach agreement to open embassies
A house in need of repair is seen on the Malecon in Old Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Many buildings are terribly rundown. It’s not unusual to see the sky through a roofless stone facade or piles of rubble in the street. But (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this June 1, 2015 photo, a vendor, wearing a muscle shirt with a Cuban national flag motif, stands next to a souvenir T-shirt featuring Che Guevara, in the shop's doorway, in Old Havana, Cuba. Visitors who wander through Old Havana or Habana Vieja, as locals call it, will find that every street seems to have a sign attesting to something of cultural or historic significance. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2014 file photo - A street entertainer waits for tourists in Old Havana, Cuba. The thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations has inspired many Cubans to think big. Visits by Americans were up 36 percent between January and early May of 2015 compared to the same period a year ago, and up 14 percent among all international arrivals. That surge is likely to continue as interest in the destination grows and it gets easier for Americans to travel there. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
Traffic moves beside a building in need of repair, on the Malecon in Old Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. In some destinations, tourist areas are located far from the rhythms of everyday life. But visitors who wander through Old Havana or Habana Vieja, as locals call it, can’t help but get a sense of how ordinary Cubans live. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Traffic moves beside a building in need of repair, on the Malecon in Old Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. In some destinations, tourist areas are located far from the rhythms of everyday life. But visitors who wander through Old Havana or Habana Vieja, as locals call it, can’t help but get a sense of how ordinary Cubans live. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Tourists eat at the paladar O'Reilly 304 in Old Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 1, 2015. When eating in Havana, stick to "paladares" - privately owned restaurants. You'll need reservations for the best. Prices are moderate but not cheap. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A vendor sells Ernesto "Che" Guevara T-shirts and other souvenirs in Old Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 1, 2015. Travel experts and upscale magazines are urging travel to Cuba before it changes. But visitors envisioning salsa in the streets and glamorous vintage cars should also be prepared to manage without ATMs, credit cards, Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, seat belts or toilet paper. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this May 17, 2015 photo, pedestrians walk on a narrow street in Old Havana, Cuba. It's not unusual to see the sky through a roofless stone facade or piles of rubble in the street. But other sites have been beautifully restored, especially around the squares in the eastern half of the neighborhood bordering the water. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
In this May 17, 2015 photo, air dried laundry hang from makeshift clotheslines on balconies in Old Havana, Cuba. In some destinations, tourist areas are located far from the rhythms of everyday life. But But visitors who wander through Old Havana will get a glimpse of uniformed school children walking past, street vendors selling colorful fruits and peppers from carts, clotheslines on patios, and small dogs sunning themselves on sidewalks. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
In this May 18, 2015 photo, visitors tour the Ambos Mundos Hotel where writer Ernest Hemingway stayed, in Old Havana, Cuba. The hotel is one of a number of attractions in the Havana neighborhood. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
In this May 18, 2015 photo, a dog curls up on a stone street in Old Havana. The neighborhood is filled with tourist attractions and historic sites but it's also a place where visitors can observe the rhythms of daily life. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
In this May 24, 2015 photo, a message believed to have been written by late U.S. novelist Ernest Hemingway, hangs framed at the bar inside La Bodeguita del Medio in Old Havana, Cuba. The writing reads: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita." (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
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While the opening of embassies marks a major milestone in the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, significant issues remain as the countries look to normalize relations. Among them: talks on human rights; demands for compensation for confiscated American properties in Havana and damages to Cuba from the embargo; and possible cooperation on law enforcement, including the touchy topic of U.S. fugitives sheltering in Havana.

Obama also wants Congress to repeal the economic embargo on Cuba, though he faces resistance from Republicans and some Democrats. Those opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba say Obama is prematurely rewarding a regime that engages in serious human rights abuses.

The president also will face strong opposition in Congress to spending any taxpayer dollars on building or refurbishing an embassy in Havana. Congress would have to approve any administration request to spend money on an embassy.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a statement that opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba "will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping."

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the opening of embassies was part of the administration's "common sense approach to Cuba." However, he called for Cuba to recognize that it is out of step with the international community on human rights.

"Arrests and detentions of dissidents must cease and genuine political pluralism is long overdue," Cardin said in a statement.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met in April during a regional summit, marking the first time U.S. and Cuban leaders have met in person since 1958.

For Obama, the embassy announcements come amid what the White House sees as one of the strongest stretches of his second term. He scored major legislative and legal victories last week, with Congress giving him fast-track authority for an Asia-Pacific free trade deal and the Supreme Court upholding a key provision of his health care law.

The court also ruled in favor of gay marriage nationwide, an outcome Obama supported.

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