US senator in Cuba says normal relations 'weeks away'
Updated: 2015-05-28 09:11
US Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) speaks during a news conference in Havana May 27, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
HAVANA - The historic process of restoring long-severed diplomatic relationship between the US and Cuba that began Dec 17 will likely come to a successful end in a matter of weeks, a US senator said during a visit to the island Wednesday.
A 45-day period for Congress to challenge a decision by President Barack Obama to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a key obstacle to improved relations, will expire Friday and the remaining issues will then get quickly resolved, Sen. Tom Udall told reporters in Havana.
"We are just two days away. There has not been a vote in the Congress so that's going to stand," Udall said. "I think it will be a matter of weeks when we have restored diplomatic relations."
US and Cuban officials have said the two sides are close to resolving the final issues that would allow both countries to re-open embassies and exchange ambassadors for the first time since the US severed diplomatic relations in January 1961.
Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who led a four-member Democratic congressional delegation to Cuba, said there appears to be growing momentum to removing at least elements of the US trade embargo first imposed in 1960.
There is bipartisan support for separate pieces of legislation that would permanently end a ban on travel, allow trade in agricultural goods and enable US telecommunications and Internet companies to provide services and devices in Cuba, the senator said.
The delegation, which included Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, spoke to reporters after meeting with Cuban officials and small business owners. All four members of the delegation support lifting the trade embargo, which the Cubans say has badly damaged their economy over the past five decades.