(AA) – President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke by phone as their countries continue to reestablish diplomatic relations.
Obama spoke by phone with Castro on Wednesday before departing Washington for Latin America, according to a White House official. Obama will participate in the two-day Summit of the Americas in Panama beginning Friday.
The call between the two presidents is only the second to have taken place since the Cold War rivals severed relations more than 50 years ago. The first was in December when the U.S. and Cuba announced the historic détente.
While no official meetings are scheduled between the leaders, they are expected to meet on the sidelines of the regional summit.
“We don’t have a formal meeting scheduled at a certain time, but we certainly anticipate that they will have a discussion tomorrow on the margins of that summit,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, told reporters in Panama.
Cuba’s participation in the Summit of the Americas is the first time it has joined the regional gathering.
Rhodes said it signals “a new chapter in this region that is very broadly welcomed by the countries of the Americas.”
Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met Thursday night in Panama for what was the highest level meeting of the two nations in more than five decades.