HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- Cuban President Raul Castro officially received his US counterpart Barack Obama at the Revolution Palace in Havana on Monday. This is the third time the two presidents have met since the joint announcement of December 17, 2014, where they said both countries will restore diplomatic relations and start a process for the normalization of relations.
In a statement to the press following their meeting, Castro called for an end to the embargo in order to normalise relations with the US.
The embargo is the most important obstacle for the economic development and well-being of the Cuban people, therefore its elimination will be essential to normalize relations with the US, Castro said today.
He noted the policy, imposed on the island over 50 years ago, is still in force.
He acknowledged that the Obama administration has asked the US Congress several times to lift the embargo, while describing as “positive but not sufficient” the latest measures adopted by the White House to try to modify aspects of this economic war.
He added that its lifting will also be beneficial for Cubans living abroad that wish the best for their families and their country, and for that reason he made a call for greater steps towards its complete elimination.
The Cuban president said that during the talks with Obama they also discussed the handing back of the US naval base in Guantanamo, which he described as another hurdle for the full normalization of relations.
Castro added that, within the 15 months since the announcement of the decision to restore diplomatic relations, “we have had important results”.
Besides mentioning specific agreements, like the restoration of direct mail service, he announced that on Monday Cuba and the US will sign one on agriculture, and that currently they are negotiating a group of bilateral instruments to cooperate on the fight against drug trafficking, on safety and commerce.
Regarding health, Castro said they agreed on deepen the ties on the joint work against zika and chronic non-transmissible diseases, including cancer.
“We have traveled a long road, that’s why is important to have started taking steps to establish a relationship of a new kind,” he concluded.
Participating in the talks on the Cuban side, among others, were first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez, and several other members of the cabinet.
On the US side were John Kerry and Penny Pritzker, secretaries of state and commerce, respectively, and other members of the government.
Meanwhile, US First Lady Michelle Obama had a meeting on Monday morning with ten young Cuban students, when she learnt about educational experiences in Cuba.
Two female senior high school students, and others from the University of Havana, and the Higher Institute of Arts, answered questions raised by the First Lady.
The meeting coincided with the first anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative that aims to bring education to over 60 million girls from all over the world.
This campaign seeks to provide education to girls that do not otherwise have access to education due to cultural, religious or race barriers.