“The news is very positive,” Ban said at his year-end press conference, thanking U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba’s head of state, Raul Castro, for “taking this very important step.”
The United Nations “stands ready to help both countries to cultivate their good neighborly relations,” he added, noting that the U.N. General Assembly has been insisting that the time had come for the two countries to normalize their bilateral ties.
The United States and Cuba, which have not had full diplomatic ties since 1961, on Wednesday announced the beginning of talks aimed at normalizing full diplomatic relations.
Cuba and the United States plan to reopen their embassies in each other’s capitals in the next few months, Obama said in an address Wednesday.
As part of the process of rapprochement, Havana released American contractor Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned on the island for five years after being convicted of subversion.
In addition, the United States freed three Cuban spies from the so-called “Group of Five” in exchange for a U.S. intelligence agent imprisoned in Cuba for nearly 20 years.
The major policy shift, however, will not bring a swift end to the United States’ longstanding economic embargo, which will require congressional approval.