Obama meets Raul Castro in highest-level

U.S. President Barack Obama met Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday in the highest-level talks between the two countries in nearly 60 years. Describing their private meeting as "historic"

Obama meets Raul Castro in highest-level

World Bulletin / News Desk 

The U.S. has entered a new era of engagement in Latin America, according to President Barack Obama.

“The United States is more deeply engaged across the region than we have been in decades,” he said.

Obama made the remarks at a press conference Saturday afternoon at the end of the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama. It was the third summit of its kind Obama has attended, and his eighth official trip to Latin America.

The two-day event in Panama was the first Summit of the Americas attended by a Cuban head of state. It also marked the first meeting between Cuban and U.S. presidents in more than 50 years.

Obama expressed optimism for future progress in U.S.-Cuban relations after an historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro earlier in the day. The two countries began improving their ties last December, and next steps were addressed by Obama and Castro during their meeting.

“We’ll continue to work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations, re-opening embassies in Havana and Washington, and encouraging greater contacts and commerce and exchanges between our citizens,” said Obama.

A key step currently under consideration is the removal of Cuba from the US government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama explained he will need to study State Department recommendations on the issue before making a public announcement. Congress will also have an opportunity to review the recommendations, he said.

“We have to be clear,” Obama told reporters, “Cuba’s not a threat to the United States.”

The two countries will continue to have their differences on human rights and other issues, said Obama, but he and Castro were able to speak candidly. The United States will continue to speak out on issues of concern, but will seek dialogue and persuasion as its path forward, the U.S. president said.

“So often when we insert ourselves in ways that go beyond persuasion, it’s counter-productive. It backfires. That’s been part of our history,” said Obama.

“Part of my message here is the Cold War is over,” he said.

The long-awaited breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations has been welcomed throughout Latin America.

“What’s been clear from this entire summit, though, is the unanimity with which, regardless of their ideological predispositions, the leaders of Latin America think this is the right thing to do,” said Obama.

The 35 heads of state in the Americas and their respective delegations were also able to come together on economic and social issues.

Civil society played a formal role in the Summit of the Americas process in Panama, and leaders have committed to ensuring the role continues at future summits.

The region’s World Trade Organization members committed to accepting a new Trade Facilitation Agreement. Discussions on improving cooperation on and access to education also advanced during the summit.

“We’re focused on the future and what we can build and achieve together,” said Obama.

Obama optimistic about Iran nuclear deal despite Khamenei's comments

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed optimism on Saturday that major world powers and Iran could finalize a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program despite strong words this week from the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Obama downplayed Khamenei's demands that a final deal result in an end to all sanctions on Iran, telling reporters at the Americas summit in Panama that Khamenei and others in Iran were addressing their own internal politics.

"Even a guy with the title 'Supreme Leader' has to be concerned about his own constituencies," Obama said.

"There may be ways of structuring a final deal that satisfy their pride, their optics, their politics, but meet our core practical objectives," Obama said at the news conference.

Last Mod: 12 Nisan 2015, 10:38
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