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Good offices

Swiss welcome reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington

By swissinfo.ch and agencies

The Swiss government has congratulated Cuba and the United States on their plans to reopen the Cuban embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Havana.

“This step marks an important milestone towards normalising relations between Cuba and the United States,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The reopening of the embassies also brings to an end the protecting power mandates that Switzerland has carried out since 1961 for the United States in Cuba and, since 1991, for Cuba in the United States. 

“Switzerland strongly believes that the reopening of the two embassies and the normalisation process will overall be beneficial for the two states and contribute to security, stability and prosperity in the region. Switzerland views the normalisation of relations between Cuba and the US as very positive – not only for these two countries but for the whole region and for world stability,” the foreign ministry added. 

For Switzerland the role of protecting power is part of the traditional good offices it offers as part of its foreign policy. With its long-standing Cuba-US mandate, Switzerland said it had also contributed to rapprochement between the two countries. 

The end of the mandate will have no impact on Switzerland's bilateral relations with the US and with Cuba. 

“The goodwill towards Switzerland and the appreciation of its commitment in fulfilling its mandate, which was characterised by reliability and credibility, will remain,” the foreign ministry believed. 

It pointed out that in a letter to Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter in January, the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, expressed his “deep gratitude” for Switzerland’s efforts and its commitment as protecting power for the United States in Cuba. 

The dedication of the people of Switzerland to rapprochement between the two states, especially during the Cold War, was “an inspiration to us all and a monument to patience in the service of peace”, Kerry wrote. 

‘New chapter’

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the US and Cuba would reopen their embassies in Havana and Washington, heralding a “new chapter” in relations after a half-century of hostility. 

The embassy agreement marks the biggest tangible step toward normalising relations since the surprise announcement in December that the two countries were restarting diplomatic ties. The posts in Washington and Havana are scheduled to open on July 20, according to Cuba’s foreign ministry.

“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” Obama said at the White House. “Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward.” 

In a highly unusual move, Cuban state television broadcast Obama’s remarks live with translation in Spanish, underscoring the new spirit. 

John Kerry will travel to Cuba for the opening of the US Embassy. 

For Obama, ending the US 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 US economic embargo on the communist island just 145 kilometres south of Florida was ineffective.

swissinfo.ch and agencies



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