Cuban flag in White House amid thaw

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The United States and Cuba have restored full diplomatic links after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War.

The new era began with little fanfare when an agreement between the two nations to resume normal ties on July 20 came into force just after midnight and the diplomatic missions of each country were upgraded from interests sections to embassies.

When clocks struck midnight in Washington and Havana, they tolled a knell for policy approaches spawned and hardened over the five decades since President John F Kennedy first tangled with youthful revolutionary Fidel Castro over Soviet expansion in the Americas.

Without ceremony in the pre-dawn hours, maintenance hung the Cuban flag in the lobby of the State Department alongside those of other nations with which the US has diplomatic relations.

The historic shift was publicly marked last night when Cuban officials formally inaugurated their embassy in Washington and Cuba’s blue, red and white-starred flag flew for the first time since the countries severed ties in 
1961.

Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez and address reporters at a joint news conference.

The US Interests Section in Havana planned to announce its upgrade to embassy status in a written statement yesterday, but the US flag will not fly at the mission until Mr Kerry visits in August for a ceremonial flag-raising.