Stonegate Bank in Pompano Beach, Fla., has agreed to provide banking services for the Cuban government.

The development is another significant step toward restored diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

In a statement, bank CEO Dave Seleski said, “At the request of the U.S. Department of State, Stonegate Bank has reached an agreement with the government of Cuba to provide banking services to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., as well as its employees.

"The adoption of banking services will ease the burden on the Cuban Interests Section in terms of issuing travel visas and other functions associated with any embassy in Washington, D.C. We hope this is the initial step to normalize banking ties between the two countries, which will benefit American companies wanting to do business in Cuba, as well as the Cuban people.”

The Cuban Interests Section has been without banking services in the U.S. since August 2013, when M&T Bank in New York announced it would no longer provide financial services to foreign diplomatic missions in the U.S., including Cuba’s, as of November 2013.

Since that time, the Cuban Interests Section has been trying to find a new bank to service their accounts in the U.S, forcing it to conduct financial matters in cash.

The banking issue has been one of Havana’s top demands in negotiations with the U.S.

The move would simplify matters for tour operators with programs to Cuba, allowing them to pay for visas for their clients by check or credit card rather than in cash.

“This is great news and hopefully a harbinger of continuing progress in the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Peggy Goldman, president of tour operator Friendly Planet. “I expect to see more banks following Stonegate’s example. This is the pathway toward being able to use U.S.-based credit cards in Cuba.”

Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, said, “This is a win-win for both Cuba and the U.S. It streamlines and simplifies our operations and allows the CIS to resume normal financial operations in the U.S."

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