President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama Friday ahead of a face-to-face discussion scheduled for Saturday aimed at thawing chilly relations between the two nations.
“At the Summit of the Americas this evening, President Obama and President Castro greeted each other and shook hands,” U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.A U.S. official characterized the greeting as an “informal interaction” and not a substantive conversation.
The two leaders are expected to meet Saturday. The summit is the first time Cuba has been included among the Central, North and South American countries invited to attend. For decades, the U.S. had blocked Cuba from participating.
The Obama administration in December announced it would restore diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba, after decades of a tense relationship tracing back to the Cold War.
Obama is also considering a recommendation from the State Department to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terror list.
The last time President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met face-to-face was in December 2013 — for a three-second handshake during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.