AP sources: US, Cuba seek to normalize relations

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is making its most significant shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba in decades.

According to U.S. officials, the two countries will be starting talks about normalizing diplomatic relations.

The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes. Those steps include the release of American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba for five years. As part of the secret negotiations to secure his release, the U.S. is freeing three Cubans who were jailed in Florida for spying.

Gross is on a U.S. government plane, headed home, after being released on humanitarian grounds at the request of the Obama administration. U.S. officials have considered his detention an impediment to improved relations with Cuba.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce the changes in policy toward Cuba at noon today.

Obama has taken some steps to ease U.S. restrictions on Cuba after Raul Castro took over as president in 2010 from his ailing brother. He has sought to ease travel and financial restrictions on Americans with family in Cuba, but has resisted calls to drop the embargo.

%@AP Links

145-a-13-(Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., with reporters on Nov. 11, 2014)-"evaporated by now"-Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said last month after meeting with Alan Gross in Cuba that he was optimistic the American contractor would soon be freed. (17 Dec 2014)

<<CUT *145 (12/17/14)££ 00:13 "evaporated by now"

147-a-10-(Judy Gross, wife of imprisoned American Alan Gross, in AP interview on Nov. 30, 2012)-"by his government"-Judy Gross, the wife of imprisoned American Alan Gross, told the Associated Press in 2012 that her husband felt like the U.S. government had abandoned him. (17 Dec 2014)

<<CUT *147 (12/17/14)££ 00:10 "by his government"

APPHOTO WX104: FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2012 file photo provided by James L. Berenthal, jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital as he serves a prison sentence in Havana, Cuba. AP sources: American Alan Gross released from Cuba after 5 years in prison. (AP Photo/James L. Berenthal, File) (31 Mar 2014)

<<APPHOTO WX104 (03/31/14)££

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