The US and Cuba are to establish talks in an effort to normalise diplomatic ties and improve relations between the two nations.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro made simultaneous announcements at 17:00 GMT, to declare the shift in policy, that both sides hope will end a rift that has lasted over 50 years.

The US is also looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The announcements are part of a plan that included the release of US contractor Alan Gross by Cuba, and the release of three Cubans jailed by the US over an alleged spy plot.

Speaking to critics of the change, Obama said:
“I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”

Obama thanked those who supported a thawing of the relationship between the two nations, including Pope Francis for his moral leadership and Canada for hosting the discussions.

The White House released a fact sheet outlining the policy changes with Cuba to coincide with Obama’s public address:

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