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Obama, Castro share historic handshake

Last Updated Apr 11, 2015 7:42 AM EDT

PANAMA CITY -- President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have exchanged greetings and handshakes at the opening of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

It's the first such interaction between the two men in three years, and one of the only times that the leaders of the U.S. and Cuba have spoken to one another in more than a half century.

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President Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro shake hands as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on, before the inauguration of the VII Summit of the Americas, April 10, 2015, in Panama City.
REUTERS/Panama Presidency/Handout

According to National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan, Mr. Obama and Castro shook hands and greeted each other before the summit's opening ceremonies at a Panama City convention center.

A reporter for a Venezuelan TV network posted video online showing the two greeting each other comfortably with multiple handshakes and extended small talk, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looked on.

The encounter was highly anticipated at the summit -- the first to include Cuba. The White House said the interaction was informal and there was no substantive conversation between the men.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reported senior U.S. officials said the two presidents could also meet for a more in-depth discussion on Saturday.

They spoke by phone in December before announcing their intentions to restore diplomatic relations between their two countries after more than 50 years of estrangement.

Another phone call took place Wednesday before Mr. Obama left Washington, according to the White House.

During a visit to Jamaica on Thursday, Mr. Obama announced that the State Department has concluded its review of whether Cuba should be removed from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

President Obama could officially announce the change this weekend, after the White House evaluates the State Department's recommendation. Congress will have 45 days to review the rescission before it goes into effect.

Cuba has been on the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list since Mar. 1, 1982. The only other countries listed are Sudan, Syria and Iran.

Prior to Friday night, President Obama and Castro shook hands only once before, when they met in 2013 at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa.