US President Barack Obama had what he described as “obviously an historic meeting” with Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday in Panama.
The talks between Obama and Castro were the first in-person meeting of American and Cuban leaders since the 1950’s. They occurred on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas after both men made what Agence France-Presse described as “conciliatory speeches” in front of other regional leaders.
Obama and Castro’s meeting occurred on the heels of the announcement late last year that America would begin normalizing relations with Cuba.
According to a White House press pool report, Obama spoke during his meeting with Castro and noted the history between the US and Cuba has been complicated. Relations between US and the island nation, which is located about 100 miles south of Florida began to deteriorate in 1959 after the revolution that brought the Communist regime of Castro’s brother, Fidel, to power.
“Over time it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries,” Obama said.
Obama also reportedly described past US policy towards Cuba as not having worked and declared it “was time for us to try something new.” Among other things, the US has concerns about democracy and human rights in Cuba. The Cuban government also has issues with US policy, which Castro outlined in his speech at the summit. According to the pool report, Obama acknowledged Castro’s remarks, which led to a smile from the Cuban president, and said he believed the two governments could disagree with each other respectfully.
Castro spoke in Spanish following his talks with Obama and his comments were translated through an interpreter. The pool report said Castro expressed agreement with everything Obama said and acknowledged the two nations might have differences “with respect of the ideas of the others.”
“We are willing to discuss everything but we need to be patient, very patient,” Castro said through the interpreter, adding, “We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”
Castro also reportedly acknowledged the members of the US and Cuban delegations and urged them to listen to their leaders, which prompted a laugh from Obama. The pair shook hands before reporters were ushered out of the room.
View a picture of the meeting below.
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