Obama, Castro briefly meet at Summit of Americas

Obama, Castro briefly meet at Summit of Americas

HomeUSForeign Policy Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:47AM

US President Barack Obama has briefly met with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro amid Washington’s efforts to restore ties with the Latin American country.

Obama and Castro greeted and stood next to each other at the historic 35-nation Summit of the Americas in Panama City, the capital of Panama, on Friday night at a dinner ceremony.

“At the Summit of the Americas this evening, President Obama and President Castro greeted each other and shook hands,” White House National Security Council Bernadette Meehan spokesperson said in a statement.

Obama had earlier spoken by phone with Castro before heading to Panama. The two discussed the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Havana and the summit on Wednesday by telephone.

Obama and the Cuban leader are expected to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit on Saturday.

The two leaders met once before, when they shook hands at the funeral of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela in December 2013.

Obama told a forum of Latin American civil society members in Panama City on Friday hours before the start of the summit that the US will no longer interfere in Latin America.

“The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity — those days are passed.”

US and Cuban foreign ministers, John Kerry and Bruno Rodriguez, made history themselves on Thursday by holding the highest level talks since 1958. Both sides hailed the meeting as “constructive.”

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962.

The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

On December 17, 2014, Obama announced that the US would start talks with Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in American foreign policy towards the communist country in over 50 years.

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