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Obama claims Cuba policy shift is 'turning point for entire region'

President Barack Obama has said when it comes to relations with Cuba, the United States will not be imprisoned by the past. Cuban leader Raul Castro has praised Obama at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

President Barack Obama said he was looking for a new relationship with Cuba that was not caught up in ideological arguments. The United States would not be imprisoned by the past when it comes to relations with Cuba, he explained at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

The summit marked the first time that a US and Cuban leader had attended an official event together since 1961, when relations between the two nations broke down. US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro shook hands on Friday at the Summit of the Americas, a gesture of mutual respect as they seek to restore diplomatic ties. In a speech delivered on Saturday, Castro called Obama "an honest man," praising his decision to restore ties with Cuba.

Addressing the summit, Obama said: "This shift in US policy represents a turning point for our entire region." He added: "The fact that President Castro and I are both sitting here today marks a historic occasion."

However, Obama acknowledged that the two countries would continue to have disagreements: "I think it's no secret, President Castro I'm sure would agree, that there will continue to be significant differences between our two countries."

A historic meeting between Obama and Castro is planned later on Saturday, the second and final day of the summit.

das/rc (AFP, AP)

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