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Raúl Castro and Barack Obama meet in Panama

Featured Raúl Castro and Barack Obama. Photo: Pablo Martinez / AP Raúl Castro and Barack Obama. Photo: Pablo Martinez / AP
PANAMA CITY, April 11, 2015 - The presidents of Cuba,Raul Castro, and the United States, Barack Obama, today held their first official meeting since the decision to move towards the restoration of relations between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters who witnessed the meeting, the Cuban president said the coincidence of opinion with Obama about the need to discuss everything concerning the island and also the North American country.

Everything can be discussed if it is done with respect for the ideas of the other party, including the issues on which they disagree, he said.

President Castro said that there are many differences in the complicated history between the two countries, "but we are ready to move forward."

Mr Castro said that he was ready to talk about sensitive issues but that patience would be needed. "We are willing to make progress in the way the president has described," he said.

The very presence of Cuba at the Summit of the Americas, the first in this, the seventh such gathering, was a significant mark of the improvements in the relationship between the two countries.

The Cuban President delved into history, recounting the revolution and the many US attempts to overthrow and destabilise the communist government. He then apologised to President Obama, however, saying that he could not be blamed for events which predated his presidency and called him "an honest man".

raul y obama781 copiaHe stressed the importance of continuing progress in the talks that develop the two governments to restore diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies and development of visits between the two peoples "and all you can do two neighboring nations."

For his part, Obama recalled the complexity of the links between Cuba and the United States for many years, but stressed the sustained bilateral contacts in recent months.

President Obama reiterated his Administration's position that after 50 years we had not changed the policy,it was time to "try something new" and that it was important for the US to engage more directly with the Cuban government and the Cuban people.

He added that over time it would be possible to "turn the page" on old divisions but he acknowledged that there were still significant differences.

President Obama said he did not want to be "imprisoned" by history but would look towards the future - a future in which considerable differences between the US and Cuba would persist, he said, but in which he would not be caught up in ideology.

Speaking to fellow leaders, Mr Obama said: "This shift in US policy represents a turning point for our entire region."

"We have both concluded that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility."

Obama said that immediate tasks include normalising diplomatic relationships between the two countries and opening a US embassy in Havana and a Cuban embassy in Washington DC.

I think we are starting the way forward and to leave behind the past circumstances he said the US president next president of the Greater Antilles.

He said that as enhance exchanges will be more direct contacts and the changes will be reflected in that process.

We can agree to respect and eventually establish good relations, he said

Obama thanked Raul Castro "the spirit of openness shown towards us."

The meeting was attended by the National Security Advisor of the United States, Susan Rice;Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, the deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, and the director of hemispheric affairs of the National Security Council, Ricardo Zuniga.

On the Cuban side were Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez;Alejandro Castro Espín and Juan Francisco Arias, the commission of Defense and Homeland Security, and Josefina Vidal, director general of North America Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Note: This article was originally published on April 11, 2015 in Cuba Debate. It has been edited and republished by News Jamaica.net. The original version, with references, can be seen Here.

Last modified onSaturday, 11 April 2015 19:28

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