Obama, Castro Say They're Ready to Talk
Cuban-American relations look set to be best in 50 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2009 5:32 AM CDT
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, center, walk at Cumana's airport in Cumana, Venezuela, yesterday.   (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)
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(Newser) – An unusually direct exchange between Barack Obama and Raul Castro is moving Cuban-American relations towards their warmest since the Eisenhower administration, the AP reports. After Obama said yesterday that it was up to Cuba to take the next step, Castro swiftly replied that Cuba is "willing to discuss everything—human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything."

Cuban leaders in the past have balked at any suggestion that human rights be discussed with the US, but Castro said his only conditions for talks are that Washington treat them as a conversation between equals and respect Cuba's "right to self-determination." Both leaders signaled, however, that the relationship remains troubled. A half-century of frozen relations "won't thaw overnight," Obama said.