US President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro are scheduled to meet in the Summit of the Americas later this week. The meeting is being considered a "historic" step in thawing relations between the two nations.
The White House has confirmed that Barack Obama will meet Cuban President Raul Castro later this week at the series of international meetings.
"There will be time for the leaders of Cuba and the United States to meet," Ricardo Zuniga, Obama's top aide and the US National Security Council's Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs told news agency AFP, adding that there would be "some type of interaction between the two leaders."
Zuniga described Cuba's participation as "historic" in the summit, which is due to begin in Panama on Friday.
Leaders of the two nations announced last December that they would reestablish diplomatc relations after nearly 50 years of hostility. Negotiators on both sides expressed hope that both countries would open embassies in the near future, although the White House said it would take a little more time than expected.
"When you have a country that has essentially been ostracized by the United States for five decades…it's going to take a little bit of time to reestablish some trust," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
The US and Cuba have been holding regular talks aimed at normalizing relations for three months now. Havana is demanding that the US remove it from a terror list that has led to sanctions on its financial dealings with the rest of the world.
Other hurdles in the negotiations include Cuba's demand of imposing restrictions on US diplomats and the import of US products into the South American country.
mg/gsw (AFP, AP)