-- President Obama today hailed the start of a "new chapter" as he announced the U.S. and Cuba are opening embassies in their respective capitals later this month and formally reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.
"This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas," the president added.
Obama said the historic announcement, which aired live on Cuban television, was "another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past." The Cuban government announced it would open its embassy in the U.S. on July 20. The U.S. is expected to launch its embassy in Havana in late July.
According to the diplomatic notes exchanged Wednesday morning, the official date for normalized relations will be July 20th. A Senior State Department official said that date will be the official restart date and falls outside of the 15 days notification Congress needs. Following that date, either side could open their embassies.
According to a copy of the Congressional notice obtained by ABC News, the new embassy will operate as "leanly as possible," with no immediate additions to its staff -- despite the president's promise this morning to add more personnel to the embassy.
There is currently no date for secretary Kerry to travel to Cuba, but plans to for the embassy opening.
The major sticking point as of the last round of talks, for Americans has been the freedom for staff to move throughout the country; for the Cubans, it was courses provided to Cuban journalists by the U.S. government at the interests section in Havana, which they say fall outside normal diplomatic activities.
According to a senior state department official travel by diplomats will be “much more free and flexible than it is now” including no longer needing to seek permission from the government to travel within the country. Instead they will just provide notification of diplomatic movement. The official saying it will make traveling and talking to the people, including dissidents, access they have not had in the past.
Opponents of the president’s Cuba strategy were quick to criticize the announcement.
A senior administration official said the U.S. might not nominate an ambassador to Cuba. Several Congressional opponents of the normalization of relations have threatened to complicate any nominations.
Senior state department official saying, that having relations with Cuba and opening embassies, will allow for better outreach and possibilities to engage in dialogue on issues still at odds, such as fugitives and law enforcement. The official sited impeding a nomination to impeding implementation of opening up Cuba to American ideals.
ABC's Ben Siegel contributed to this report.