Relations between the US and Cuba have been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a trade embargo after Cuba’s revolution led to communism.
But in unprecedented moves on Wednesday, Mr Obama said the “rigid and outdated policy” of isolating Cuba had clearly failed.
He said economic reforms were still needed in Cuba and human rights there needed to be upheld. But he said it was time for a new approach.
But after saluting the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Washington and the Communist government in Havana, Castro said, six minutes into his nine-minute speech:
“this does not mean the main issue has been resolved. The economic, commercial and financial embargo that causes enormous human and economic damage to our country must cease.”
“Even though the measures of the embargo have been converted into law,” Castro read from a prepared text, “the president of the United States can modify their implementation with his executive powers.”
How many of you are willing to bet Obama will try to write that executive order?
Cuba and United States key dates
1959: Fidel Castro and his guerrilla army defeat the US-backed Cuban regime of Fulgencio Batista
1960-1961: Cuba nationalises US businesses without compensation; US breaks off diplomatic relations and imposes a trade embargo in response
1961: Failed Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-backed Cuban exiles
1962: Soviet Union deploys ballistic missiles to Cuba, prompting Cuban Missile Crisis
2001: Five Cubans, dubbed the Cuban Five, are jailed in Miami for spying
2008: Raul Castro becomes Cuban president
2009: US citizen Alan Gross detained in Cuba accused of spying
Dec 2013: US President Barack Obama and Raul Castro shake hands at Nelson Mandela’s funeral – the first such public gesture since 1959
17 December 2014: Alan Gross is released by Cuba