Obama, Castro shake hands

2013-12-10 14:41

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US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shook hands while sharing the stage at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at FNB Stadium in Joburg.

CNN showed the two shaking hands after Obama finished his speech, in which he urged leaders not just to speak about the values, such as reconciliation, that Mandela stood for, but also to live them.

Communist Cuba and its neighbour, the capitalist US, have had strained relations for more than a century, and still only have limited trade and diplomatic relations.

The gesture was saluted in Havana as a hopeful sign, Sapa reported.

The government website Cubadebate.cu ran a photograph of the moment with the caption: "Obama greets Raul: may this image be the beginning of the end of the US aggressions against Cuba."

But the White House downplayed the incident, tweeted journalist Paul Brandus: “White House downplays Obama-Raul Castro handshake. Certainly wasn't planned. They ran into each other, nothing more to it, official says.”

It was only the second time since diplomatic ties were broken in 1961 that leaders of the two Cold War antagonists have greeted each other – and the first time the greeting took place in public.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton exchanged greetings in 2000 during the Millennium summit in New York. There was no picture of the encounter.

» This story was updated after first published to add more responses to the incident.

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