- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2015

President Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro late Friday night as the two leaders prepare to discuss restoring diplomatic relations.

Their greeting came before they dined together at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It is the first time Cuba has attended the summit, due to the thawing of relations with the U.S.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro are to hold a more detailed discussion Saturday on the sidelines of the summit about reopening embassies in Havana and Washington. The Obama administration is preparing to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a move demanded by the Castro regime before resuming diplomatic relations.

The historic policy shift, first announced by Mr. Obama in December, is the dominant issue at the conference in Panama.

“As we move towards the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences government to government with Cuba on many issues. Just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas, just as we differ with our closest allies,” Mr. Obama said Friday.

A White House aide said the 53-year-long freeze on U.S.-Cuba relations that began during the Cold War hurt America.

“Our Cuba policy, instead of isolating Cuba, was isolating the United States in our own backyard,” said Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser.

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