During a press conference today, President Obama announced that the United States will work to improve relations with Cuba, calling the current approach to dealing with the island "outdated."

According to CNN, President Obama revealed the details of the new plan, noting that they were the "most forceful" that a president could make without backing from Congress: 

President Obama announced a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions on the country. And the two nations are set to re-open embassies, with preliminary discussions on that next step in normalizing diplomatic relations beginning in the coming weeks, a senior administration official tells CNN.

Talks between the U.S. and Cuba have been ongoing since June of 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican in brokering the deal. Pope Francis -- the first pope from Latin America -- encouraged Obama in a letter and in their meeting this year to renew talks with Cuba on pursuing a closer relationship.

In addition to re-establishing ties, U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who had been detained by Cuba since 2009, was freed as part of the agreement. A spy being held in Cuba was exchanged for three Cubans incarcerated in Florida, as well. 

As CNN notes, this is the most pivotal development between the U.S. and Cuba since diplomatic relations ended in 1961.

[via CNN]