01:21 GMT +330 September 2016
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro attend a news conference as part of President Obama's three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 21, 2016

Castro to Obama: Relations Won't Be Normal Until Guantanamo Returned

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As US President Barack Obama makes a historic visit to Cuba following a thaw in relations, Cuban President Raul Castro has stressed that complete normalization cannot be achieved until Guantanamo Bay is returned to Havana.

Meeting with Obama in Havana, Castro stressed that the US must abandon its territory at Guantanamo and lift its embargo against Cuba.

"Much more can be done if the embargo is lifted," he said. "We recognize the position President Obama is in, and the position his government holds against the blockade, and that they have called on Congress to lift it."

The Cuban president added that there remain "profound differences that will not disappear over our political model, democracy, human rights, social justice, international relations, peace and stability," and stressed that the Cuban people will not "relinquish what they have gained through great sacrifice."

Castro denied accusations that Cuba holds political prisoners, saying "give me a list of those political prisoners and if the list exists they will be released before the night is through."

Speaking to reporters, President Obama said he could not offer an exact timeframe for the end of the embargo, but stressed that Washington does not view Havana as a threat.

"What I have said to President Castro is that we are moving forward and not looking backwards, that we don't view Cuba as a threat to the United Statesm," he said. "The embargo's going to end. When? I can't be entirely sure. The fact that there has been strong support, not just inside of Congress, but also among the Cuban people, indicates that this is a process that should continue."

"We're moving ahead with more opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and interact with the Cuba people," he added. "We are ready to pursue more commercial ties, which create jobs and opportunities for Cubans and Americans alike."

Still, the US does have concerns.

"People are still concerned about [human rights] inside of Cuba," Obama added. "We can't force change on any particular country, ultimately it has to come from within."

While recognizing these concerns, Castro said that no country on Earth can meet all international human rights standards. He hopes that all countries can work together to meet those standards.

According to a White House press release, the US and Cuba have already launched a joint effort to combat the Zika virus.

"The United States and Cuba have committed to deepen scientific and public health cooperation, focusing on communicable diseases including arboviruses such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya [and]…on the prevention and treatment of Chronic…diseases such as cancer," the White House said in a fact sheet released on Monday.

"In the coming months, the United States and Cuba intend to work toward finalizing arrangements to strengthen our collaboration in these and other scientific and health areas."

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  • Mayoh
    CIRCUS and not BREAD.....To be realistic; Obama got not power at all, Obama is a Lame-Duck, he only could be counting the days to get out forever from The W.H... No Congress, nobody is going to support or approval any what he does... and forget Cuba, Cuba is small fish, in this world today... Europe, won't have any kind of treat between Europe and USA until next president.... so all this is just CIRCUS!!!
  • So Obama's worried about Cuba's position on human rights? That's rich, coming from the leader of "free world" that just ransacked 7 countries in the last decade and a half, killed more than a million people in the process and destroyed hospitals, blown up wedding parties and murdered 10s of thousands of children as well. Yeah, Cuba can NEVER live up to the expectations of Washington! Give me a BREAK! Now I'll go vomit.
  • michael
    and 1500 accredited journalists were sent to cover this??
  • cast235
    Obama said it very clear, that FIRST Cuba MUST commit to Democracy and Human Rights. They want Cuba to do what Gorbachev did. Sign all and SHUT UP. Or sanction will remain.

    They already have an opposition. watch the Toyota trucks unidentified, black flags, and provocateurs at Guantanamo.
  • ptcjm
    It is just like uncountable black snakes crawling from the American flag spreading around, which of course reminds one of the continuous assassination attempts on Castro. Surveillance any?
  • Andreas
    And in May this year, Barack Obama will visit Vietnam. We all should support him.
  • Kim Kyu-Un
    Returned? What kind of fantasy land is Castro in? Guantanamo Bay was a US Naval Base long before those Commies took over the country. Like these 1959 American Cars they still use, Cuba needs to be returned back to the free world.

    Careful that O'bombma doesn't sign the White House over to the Cubans, and the Washington D.C. non-state area, doesn't turn into a Communist wasteland.
  • People are still concerned about [human rights] inside of Cuba." Obama said that? With Guantanomo Bay right there? The man is either totally lacking in self-reflection, or has become lost in his own delusions.
  • bangein reply tocast235(Show commentHide comment)
    cast235, But how it can commit to human right while it is US which is not committing to human right by abusing human being on Cuba soil. So this is a big contradiction from our President Obama. He should use his power and close this prison for all and lift the blockade. By doing so, Obama could have January 2017 a flourishing legacy that the world will remember, and not a simple visit to Cuba.
  • tobi.gelando
    Obama should tell his buddy Ersogan to let all the political prisoners FREE. stop the genocide on the Kurdish people and stop financing terrorist .
    Obama you are use less ,,,,
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