Obama, Raul Castro sit down for first time since relations resumed


US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro sat down Tuesday for their first face-to-face talks since their nations resumed diplomatic relations in July.

The leaders shook hands and smiled at the start of their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, but made no public remarks.

Castro had called Monday for a lifting of the US economic embargo on Cuba and the closing of the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama cannot lift the embargo, which must be repealed by Congress, and Washington has said it is not open to closing the military facility even as Obama seeks to close the prison for terrorist detainees that is housed there.

Obama told the General Assembly Monday that the reopening of ties between the US and Cuba showed a willingness to adjust course when longstanding policy was no longer achieving US objectives.

“I also believe that to move forward in this new era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you are doing is not working,” he told the General Assembly. “For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuban policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people. We changed that.”

Obama and Castro announced last year that they would begin to normalize relations and the countries reopened embassies in July. The leaders sat down on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April, but this was their first meeting on US soil.