President Obama charted a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba in his July 1 announcement that the two nations will re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies on July 20.

The Cuban government will hold a ceremony July 20 in Washington to reopen its embassy. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana later this summer for the ceremony to commemorate the reopening of the U.S. Embassy there. There hasn’t been a U.S. Embassy in Cuba since January 1961, at the height of the Cold War.

The president said in his announcement, “Americans want to get to know their neighbors to the south, and through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives.”

Speaking in Vienna, Kerry said: “This step will advance President Obama’s vision of an Americas where responsibilities are widely shared and where countries combine their strengths to advance common interests and values. And we frankly also believe that this opening will help to change relationships in the region as a whole.”

Under Obama, the United States has shifted a 54-year policy of isolating Cuba to one of engaging it. The reopening of the U.S. Embassy and of the Cuban Embassy in Washington is a sign that both governments will engage more deeply on a range of issues. A U.S. Embassy in Havana will provide U.S. diplomats with better access to the Cuban government and greater contact with the Cuban people.

“Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight, but I believe that American engagement through our embassy, our businesses and most of all through our people is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights,” Obama said.

Kerry said he looks forward to greeting the Cuban people in Havana later in the summer when he takes part in the reopening of the U.S. Embassy “and the beginning of a new era, of a new relationship with the people of Cuba.”

The president’s plan for charting a new course with Cuba aims to increase human connections and entrepreneurial activity between the two nations. Other highlights of the plan include:

  • Facilitating remittances to Cuba from the United States.
  • Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba.
  • Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely.

Separately, on May 29, the United States rescinded Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.