US-Cuba ties: Cuba parliament unanimously approves normalisation with US

A car used as a taxi drives through the streets of Havana Dec 19, 2014. Cuba's parliament on Friday unanimously ratified a deal reached between Havana and Washington normalising relations after a half-century of hostility. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A car used as a taxi drives through the streets of Havana Dec 19, 2014. Cuba's parliament on Friday unanimously ratified a deal reached between Havana and Washington normalising relations after a half-century of hostility. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HAVANA (AFP) - Cuba's Parliament on Friday unanimously ratified a deal reached between Havana and Washington normalising relations after a half-century of hostility.

"The Cuban Parliament today gave its unanimous support" to the bilateral thaw, which was outlined Wednesday in a speech by President Raul Castro, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina said shortly after the start of the session.

Mr Castro chaired the twice-yearly meeting of Parliament on Friday in a session largely focused on the communist island's historic renewal of relations with the US.

He was due to give an evening address to close the session, which was also attended by the "Cuban Five", the group of intelligence agents jailed in the US whose last three members were released in a prisoner exchange that paved the way for Wednesday's landmark rapprochement.

The men are hailed as national heroes in Havana, which says they were not spying on Washington but on Cuban exile groups determined to attack the island.

The session was scheduled to focus on economic issues, but state media reports in Cuba had indicated that Havana's historic rapprochement with the US would be a dominant theme.

"This ordinary session has the historic singularity of being held with the five anti-terrorist heroes back in the motherland and the announcement that Cuba and the United States have reestablished diplomatic relations," said state news agency AIN.

Cuba's 612-member Parliament, the National Assembly of Popular Power, has no opposition representatives and meets twice a year.

Friday's session, which was closed to foreign media, was scheduled to review progress on the annual economic plan, which fell short of its target of 2.2 per cent growth this year.

Despite Mr Castro's tentative steps toward reform since taking over from his older brother, Fidel, in 2006, the Cuban economy will achieve just 1.3 per cent growth for 2014, the council of ministers said earlier this month.