Fw: Travel pool report #14 - readout of Obama and Castro meeting

From: Lee, Carol [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 2015 04:56 PM
To: Allen, Jessica
Subject: Travel pool report #14 - readout of Obama and Castro meeting

Readout of President Obama and President Castro's meeting, which was about an hour long.

A senior administration official briefed pool in a room in the convention center after the Brazil pool spray:

"The two presidents discussed the ongoing embassies in Havana and Washington." The presidents committed to opening the embassies and directed their respective teams to resolve the lingering issues as quickly as possible so the embassies can open.

The two leaders discussed the completion of the State Department review of Cuba's designation as a sponsor of terrorism, and Mr. Obama informed Mr. Castro that the next step, the interagency review, is near or is completed and that Mr. Obama would be making a decision in the "coming days." The official said it was not a significant part of their discussion.

Tone was not of two countries making requests of each other.‎ It was to take stock of how relations are progressing.

Talked about "practical" issues stopping the opening of embassies.

Mr. Obama stressed the importance of US diplomats needing to move around.

"We would obviously need to have sufficient capability for diplomats to move around the country." The official said that's a requirement for the US, although they "understand this is not going to be like our embassy in London" but more flexibility is needed.

"We've made good progress," the official said. "Our expectation is this could be concluded relatively quickly."‎ The official said there are practical roadblocks, such as making it possible for Cuban embassy in Washington to have access to banking in the United States.‎ Other issues include restrictions on diplomats.

The US has discussed fugitives in Cuba and vice versa.

Mr. Castro did not extend an invite to Mr. Obama to visit Havana during this meeting.

‎Messrs. Obama and Castro spent time discussing the historical significance of their meeting.

"A lot of the meeting was spent on just taking stock of how significant this moment is" for Cubans, Americans and the hemisphere.

The atmosphere in the room was they're able to be able to speak frankly.

They expressed a real commitment to do something different and chart a new course. Mr. Castro spoke of that in the meeting. "There was a sense of the moment in the room."

"There wasn't tension."

"President Obama and President Castro are able to have a debate about those issues."

There was occasionally a reference to just how unlikely this would have seemed in the past.

Mr. Castro raised the US embargo and ‎that he wants it lifted.

Pool is heading to Mr. Obama's press conference.

Carol Lee
The Wall Street Journal

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