U.S president, Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro shook hands on Friday at a summit in Panama, a symbolically charged gesture as the pair seek to restore ties between the Cold War foes.
A photograph showed Obama and Castro, both wearing dark suits, chatting in a small group of leaders at the summit’s opening ceremony. A White House official confirmed the two men shook hands and spoke briefly.
“This was an informal interaction and there was not a substantive conversation between the two leaders,” the official said.
Obama and Castro are expected to meet again on Saturday and talk about their efforts to restore full diplomatic relations and boost trade and travel between the two countries.
Their rapprochement, first unveiled in a historic policy shift in December, is the central issue at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama.
“As we move towards the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences government to government with Cuba on many issues. Just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas, just as we differ with our closest allies,” Obama said earlier on Friday.
But the 53-year-old Obama, who was not even born when Fidel and Raul Castro swept to power in Cuba’s 1959 revolution, also said the United States is no longer interested in trying to impose its will on Latin America.
“The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,” he said.
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