Updated 04:18 PM EDT, Mon, Oct 19, 2020

Barack Obama & Raúl Castro Meet for the First Time After More Than Half a Century; VIDEO of Historic Handshake

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U.S. President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro met for an hour on Saturday to end a 5-decade long standstill between the two countries.

According to CNN, the brief full-fledged meeting between the top leaders took place in a small conference room on the sidelines of the VII Summit of the Americas held in Panama City. The New York Times wrote that the encounter was not on Obama's official schedule, but it held "deep significance for the regional meeting" as it signifies the U.S. President's effort to ease and normalize relations with Cuba.

"This is obviously an historic meeting," Obama said at the beginning of his meeting with Castro, CNN reported. "It was time for us to try something new. We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future."

CNN added that the hostility between the U.S. and Cuba, which lasted for more than half a century, did not benefit either of the countries' citizens.

Castro, who stated that he puts his trust on Obama, also acknowledged that the discussion between him and his U.S. counterpart could go wrong in so many ways, CNN reported. But he was also positive that there are ways to work around those differences.

"We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient," Castro said, as quoted by the news outlet. "We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow."

After his meeting with Castro, Obama described the session as "candid and fruitful" and established a "turning point" to mend broken ties with Cuba, CNN wrote. However, Obama still hasn't reached a decision on removing Cuba's three-decade-old status as a state sponsor of terrorism. According to the president, he "wants to make sure" to review Cuba's terror status before he makes his announcement about the policy outcome.

"But in terms of the overall direction of Cuba policy, I think there is a strong majority both in the United States and in Cuba that says our ability to engage, to open up commerce and travel and people to people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for Cuban people," Obama explained, as reported by CNN.

During the opening remarks on Saturday's summit, Obama said that the "Cold War has been over for a long time" and that he is not interested "in having battles," the news outlet noted. Castro, meanwhile, commended Obama's honesty and distinguished him from past American presidents.

Before the meeting on Saturday, Obama and Castro had a brief encounter and shook hands in Panama City on Friday night before dining at the inaugural session of the conference, The New York Times noted. Aside from the "much-anticipated" handshake, the gathering also saw the two leaders sitting on the same table separated by two other leaders.

Before arriving in Panama on Wednesday, CNN reported that Obama spoke on the telephone with Castro to lay the groundwork for what will become "a new era of relations between the neighboring countries."

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