Obama, Raul Castro to have interaction, State Department official says

 havana-live-obama-raulHAVANA, 4 April US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro will have an “interaction” during the next week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, an American official says.

“Clearly President Obama knew when he made the decision to go to the summit, and he knew that Cuba had been invited to the summit… that there would be an interaction,” US State Department official Roberta Jacobson said at the Brookings Institution on Friday.

The brief meeting will be the first between the two presidents since Obama announced late last year to resume ties with Cuba.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962.

The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

On December 17, 2014, Obama announced that the US would start talks with Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in American foreign policy towards the communist country in over 50 years.

“Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world,” Obama said in a statement announcing his decision.

Jacobson said Friday, “The leaders are together a lot of the time. And so there will be an interaction with Raul Castro”.

However, she did not elaborate on whether any meeting will be held and, if so, what would be its nature.

“So I don’t know exactly what kind of an interaction that will be. But they’ve obviously already spoken on the phone… and there’s been a lot of interaction since then at a lower level.”

Also, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf cast doubt on the possibility of opening of embassies in Havana and Washington before the next week summit due to the thaw in US-Cuba relations. “It’s not a lot of time, let’s put it that way.”

Washington and Havana have already held three rounds of talks since January to restore diplomatic ties.