Normal diplomatic relations between the two countries will be re-established on July 20 with the upgrading of the Cuban and U.S. special interests sections in Washington and Havana to embassy status.

With only three days to go before Cuba and the USA reopen embassies in each others’ nations after 54 years, Cuba said the United States needs to abandon its policy of regime change if Washington really wants better ties with the Caribbean nation.

“We want to help shape the very careful and very cautious opening we are seeing in Cuba by intensifying our bilateral relations with Cuba and expanding our partnership politically, economically and culturally”, said the spokesman, Martin Schaefer.

Obama’s decision to move toward restoring full diplomatic ties followed decades of mutual antagonism after U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island on January 1, 1959, as Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries seized control.

Speaking to the Cuban parliament, Mr Castro also said that the U.S. should hand back Guantanamo Bay, pay reparations for the economic damage caused by more than 50 years of sanctions and end hostile propaganda radio and TV broadcasts to Cuba.

At the Summit of the Americas in Panama where Obama met face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro in April, the American president told a news conference: “On Cuba, we are not in the business of regime change”.

“It’s an historic moment that we’re experiencing now”, said the German minister, who also emphasized the “process of transformation” begun by Cuba and which, in his judgment, is going “in the right direction”.

Obama, a Democrat, has eased parts of the USA embargo but would need the Republican-controlled Congress to lift it completely.

Although an official USA embassy will be housed in Havana with the United States flag flying above its gate, USA citizens still face restrictions that prohibit them from freely traveling to Cuba.