PANAMA CITY: U.S. President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, held a historic face-to-face discussion during the Summit of the Americas last weekend.
Presidents Obama and Castro met for an hour last Saturday, the closing day of the summit, which was held in Panama City.
Cuba attended the summit meeting for the first time since its inception in 1994. The meeting between Obama and Castro was the first publicly planned encounter of the American and Cuban presidents since 1958.
“Our governments will continue to have differences,” said Obama following the meeting. “At the same time, we agreed that we can continue to take steps forward that advance our mutual interests.”
Obama indicated the history between the two nations will not affect future relations.
“The United States will not be imprisoned by the past – we’re looking to the future,” said Obama. “I’m not interested in having battles that frankly started before I was born. The Cold War has been over for a long time.”
Obama said the meeting with Castro was “candid and fruitful,” and he will continue working on the goal he announced in December of re-establishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies in Havana and Washington.
However, Obama said crucial steps in the normalization process would not be completed speedily, stopping short of announcing a final decision to remove Cuba from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying he wanted to study it further.
Castro said he wanted a new beginning with the U.S., despite both countries’ “long and complicated history.
“We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient – very patient”, he said.
Castro also thanked Obama for vowing to come to a “rapid decision” on removing Cuba from the United States government’s list of states that sponsor international terrorism, a designation that has impacted Cuba’s ability to bank with the United States and some foreign creditors.