- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

President Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro in New York City on Tuesday morning, further cementing the fact that the U.S. and the communist island are moving past the diplomatic isolation of the last half-century.

The two men met during the annual United Nations General Assembly and talked just before Mr. Obama delivered remarks at a summit on countering violent extremism.

Reporters witnessed virtually none of the meeting, other than a handshake between Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro. Mr. Castro reportedly laughed upon seeing how much shorter he is than Mr. Obama.

Secretary of State John Kerry and other high-level administration officials also attended the meeting.

The U.S. earlier this year removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and both nations have opened embassies in Havana and Washington, respectively. When he announced the historic change in Cuba policy last December, the president said it had become clear that isolating Cuba and hoping for a change in leadership was a strategy that simply wasn’t working.

In addition to restarting official diplomatic relations with the island, Mr. Obama also wants Congress to formally lift an embargo that would ease trade between the two nations.

In a speech at the U.N. on Monday, he predicted the embargo eventually will be scrapped.

“For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people. We changed that. We continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to stand up for human rights,” he said. “But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties. As these contacts yield progress, I’m confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.”

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