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US, Cuba Seek to Restore Ties
International

US, Cuba Seek to Restore Ties

President Barack Obama and Cuban President 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, Reuters reported.
Obama and Castro were 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.
Apart from a couple of brief, informal encounters, the leaders of the United States and Cuba have not had any significant meetings since the Castro brothers toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and then steered their Caribbean country into a close alliance with the Soviet Union.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed Obama’s push to improve relations with Cuba, saying it was helping to heal a “blister” that was hurting the region.
However, Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas said civic groups in Cuba have been sidelined from talks and appealed to Obama to support their push for more democracy.
“The Cuban government is showing no goodwill ... They don’t want to make any kind of concessions,” he told Reuters.

 

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