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SA hails US-Cuba breakthrough

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South Africa on Thursday hailed US President Barack Obama’s announcement of moves to “normalise” his country’s diplomatic ties with Cuba.

“The South African government welcomes the release of the remaining three of the Cuban Five, and the intention by the US to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba,” the international relations and co-operation department said in a statement.

The so-called Cuban Five were five Cuban intelligence officers imprisoned in the United States. One was released in 2011, one earlier this year, and the remaining three on Wednesday this week. The final release follows an agreement — announced the same day –between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to improve the relationship between their two countries.

In its statement, the department said South Africa had consistently called for the release of the Cuban Five and the lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba.

“At the level of the government and the ruling party, the African National Congress, South Africa has used its fraternal relations with Cuba to facilitate dialogue with the US in a series of consultative meetings.”

It urged the US government “to move swiftly towards the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba as announced by President Obama”.

Following Obama’s announcement, Castro has called on the US to end its more than five decades long trade embargo, which has caused enormous damage to the Cuban economy.

The US cut economic and diplomatic ties with the Caribbean island state in the early 1960s. SAPA

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