Obama, Castro Meet in NY

Obama, Castro Meet in NYObama, Castro Meet in NY

US President Barack Obama met his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro on Tuesday at the United Nations, where a day earlier both had called for an end to the American trade embargo against Havana.

The leaders of the former Cold War rivals shook hands at the start of their second meeting, after their historic encounter in April at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, AFP reported. Close neighbors but long-time foes, the US and Cuba restored diplomatic ties in July after a five-decade standoff.

The two countries have reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals and are engaged in a dialogue to resolve their remaining political differences, but the economic sanctions remain.

The White House wants to lift the embargo, which prevents almost all trade across the Florida Straits, but conservatives in the US Congress are against the move.

On Monday, during a speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama said he was confident Congress would “inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.”

He acknowledged that Washington’s Cuba policy had “failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people” but stressed that human rights remain a concern in relations with Havana. Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel in 2006, made his first address to the Assembly a few hours after Obama took the podium.