Obama, Castro discuss more openings

At the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the presidents talked about additional steps to deepen bilateral cooperation

Castro ObamaCUBA STANDARD — Raúl Castro and Barack Obama met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly plenary in New York Sept. 29 to discuss “recent advances in relations between the United States and Cuba,” the White House said in a readout.

In their second behind-closed-doors meeting in less than half a year, the presidents also talked about “additional steps each government can take to deepen bilateral cooperation.” No further information was immediately available about these steps.

The U.S. president, according to the White House statement, highlighted recent embargo-easing steps taken by his administration, allowing “more Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba.”  Obama is sending Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to Havana Oct. 6 and 7, where she will update Cuban officials on the new regulations and gauge business opportunities for U.S. companies.

“The President welcomed the progress made in establishing diplomatic relations, and underscored that continued reforms in Cuba would increase the impact of U.S. regulatory changes,” the statement said.

Castro reiterated the need to lift the embargo and return the Guantánamo naval base to Cuba, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said during a press conference after the meeting.

The meeting also included Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Adviser Mark Feierstein, the permanent representative at the United Nations, Samantha Power, Foreign Minister Rodríguez, National Defense and Security Adviser Alejandro Castro Espín, and Vice National Defense and Security Adviser Juan Francisco Arias Fernández.

In a speech to a cheering UN General Assembly a day earlier, Obama predicted that the U.S. Congress will lift the embargo.

“As these contacts yield progress, I am confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore,” he said. “Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I am confident that openness, not coercion will support the reforms and better the life the Cuban people deserve.”

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