Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

World leaders welcomed the groundbreaking news that the United States and Cuba are moving to restore diplomatic relations and bury one of the last vestiges of the Cold War after more than 50 years of hostility.

From China to Chile, plaudits rang out. South American leaders holding a trade meeting in Argentina interrupted their session and broke into euphoric applause.

The European Union, which is also moving to normalize ties with Cuba, hailed the breakthrough as a "historical turning point."

"Today another Wall has started to fall," said EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.

The gush of praise for the shock announcement in Washington and Havana - it emerged that secret talks have been underway for a year and a half - featured a plethora of terms like "turning point" and "historic day."

Jubilant celebrations also broke out on the streets of Havana Wednesday as people living on a pittance per day in the communist-run island savored the prospect of an end to the crippling US trade embargo and perhaps a brighter future.

"I have goosebumps all over," said Ernesto Perez, 52, who works at a cafe in Havana's historic city center.

In making the announcement, President Barack Obama said decades of trying to isolate Cuba and oust the communist regime had failed, and it was time to turn the page.

"We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries," Obama said.

He said he would urge Congress to lift the trade embargo, imposed in 1960, while using his presidential authority to advance diplomatic and travel links.

"We are all Americans," Obama declared, breaking into Spanish. 

Despite the global support, both Obama and the announcement of renewed diplomatic relations received ire in the United States. 

Cuban-Americans in Miami, a hotbed of angry opposition to the Castro regime, expressed dismay.

US Republican lawmakers also quickly denounced the deal, in a foretaste of the resistance that Obama will face as he tries to persuade Congress to back a full end to the embargo.

House leader John Boehner called the deal "another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies."