Obama, Castro hold historic meeting

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The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations.

In a small conference room in a Panama City convention center, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro sat side by side in a bid to inject fresh momentum into their months-old effort to restore diplomatic ties. Obama said he wanted to "turn the page" on old divisions, although he acknowledged that significant differences between the governments would remain.

"This is obviously a historic meeting," Obama said shortly after the two sat down. "It was my belief it was time to try something new, that it was important for us to engage more directly with the Cuban government." "And more importantly, with Cuban people," the president added.

Castro told the U.S. president he was ready to discuss sensitive issues including human rights and freedom of the press, maintaining that "everything can be on the table." But he also cautioned that the two countries also have "agreed to disagree." (Reuters)


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