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    Apr 13, 2015

    Obama, Castro hold 'historic' meeting


    UNITED States President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, held the first face-to-face talks between the countries' leaders since 1956 in Panama on Saturday, vowing to pursue their historic effort to bury Cold War-era enmity.

    Sitting together in a blue-carpeted room, Mr Obama thanked Mr Castro for the latter's "spirit of openness and courtesy" during their interactions, while the communist leader stressed that the negotiations will require patience.

    The Obama-Castro meeting, which lasted more than an hour, was the climax of their surprise announcement on Dec 17 that they would seek to normalise relations that broke off in 1961.

    "This is obviously a historic meeting," said Mr Obama, who spoke first after they sat down in polished, wooden chairs for their talks on the sidelines of the 35-nation Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

    "We are now in a position to move on a path towards the future," he said, adding that the immediate task was to reopen embassies.

    Mr Castro, 83, broke into a smile when Mr Obama acknowledged that the two sides will continue to have differences on human rights and other issues.

    They both had already made conciliatory speeches moments earlier during the summit, sitting at an oval table with some 30 other regional leaders.

    US-Cuban tensions have vexed Washington's relations with the region for decades.