HAVANA TIMES — Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro, will “interact” at the Summit of the Americas April 10-11 in Panama City, but for now there is no bilateral meeting scheduled, said a senior official at the US State Department on Friday, reported dpa news.
“President Obama knew when he made the decision to go to the summit that Cuba would be invited (…) and that there would be an interaction” with Castro, said Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, Roberta Jacobson, during a symposium at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C.
Jacobson did not say what “interact” would actually mean besides the leaders sharing the stage for the official photo op. It could range from a simple handshake and brief exchange to a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit.
For now, the only bilateral meeting Obama has scheduled is with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, the Summit host.
Jacobson recalled that Obama and Castro spoke by telephone before the historic announcement on December 17th to restore diplomatic relations, broken off by the USA in 1961. To reach that point secret negotiations took place over an 18-month period.
Since the announcement, there have been several contacts and meetings of representatives of the two administrations in both Havana and Washington.
The Summit of the Americas will be the first time that Presidents Obama and Raul Castro participate together in a summit; although they did briefly greet each other in December 2013 at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. At that time the secret talks were already underway.
At least 30 of 35 Heads of State and Government of the Organization of American States (OAS) have confirmed their participation in the Summit. The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, will not attend due to severe flooding affecting the northern region of her country.