Castro, Obama speak on phone ahead of pope's visit

2015-09-19 09:19
Barack Obama. (File: AP)

Barack Obama. (File: AP)

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Washington/Havana (dpa) - Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba and Barack Obama of the United States spoke on the phone Friday, just a few hours ahead of Pope Francis' arrival in Havana for a trip that will also bring him to the United States.

The White House and the Cuban foreign ministry confirmed that Obama and Castro talked and discussed among other things Francis' upcoming trip. The pontiff is expected in Havana on Saturday and will fly to Washington on Tuesday.

Francis played a key role in mediating the recent thaw in diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington.

"[Obama] underscored the importance of the United States and Cuba re-establishing diplomatic ties and the reopening of embassies in our respective countries. The two presidents commended the role that Pope Francis has played in advancing relations between our countries," the White House said.

This is the first talk between the two men that has been made public since Obama and Castro met in April in Panama City, on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas.


Cuba and the United States restored on July 20 diplomatic ties that had been cut for 54 years.

Obama and Castro "talked about the steps that have been taken since the meeting they held in Panama", the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"They also spoke about the upcoming visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States, acknowledging his contribution to the start of a new stage in relations between the two countries," the ministry said.

Experts believe that his stops in both nations during one trip is intended to reinforce reconciliation after the decades-long standoff. Both Obama and Castro have explicitly thanked the Argentinian-born Francis for his efforts to bring them together.

The United States announced on Friday new measures to relax restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, to ease an embargo that has remained in place for more than half a century.

"The leaders discussed steps that the United States and Cuba can take, together and individually, to advance bilateral cooperation, even as we will continue to have differences on important issues and will address those differences candidly," the White House said of the talk.

Read more on:    raul castro  |  barack obama  |  pope francis  |  cuba  |  us

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