US President Barack Obama told Cuban President Raul Castro, during their historic meeting at the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, that “it is time for us to try something new” with regard to Cuba because the previous US policy did not work.
The long-awaited meeting, the first between the two countries’ presidents in over half a century, was held in a small room in Panama’s Atlapa Convention Centre, where the 7th Summit of the Americas is being held by the hemisphere’s 35 countries and to which Cuba was invited for the first time, Spanish news agency Efe reported.
Obama and Castro were seated beside each other, very similar to the way a US president receives a foreign president at the Oval Office in the White House.
Obama himself called it “a historic meeting”, acknowledging at the same time that the two countries have a “complicated history”.
“We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future,” the US president said.
According to Obama, the majority of Americans and also of Cubans have responded positively to the normalisation of diplomatic relations that he and Castro announced last December.
“Over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries,” Obama said.
Saturday’s meeting between Obama and Castro was preceded by a telephone conversation last Wednesday and was focused on reviewing the process for restoring bilateral diplomatic relations, with the consequent reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana.
That reopening, for which no date has yet been set, was also discussed in a three-hour meeting Thursday in Havana between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, which until this Saturday was the highest-level diplomatic contact between the US and Cuba since 1958.