US, Cuba leaders meet for 2nd time in this year

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Obama And Castro Meet For The Second Time This Year

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Making good on a pledge to change U.S. posture toward Cuba, President Barack Obama held talks Tuesday with Cuban President Raul Castro, the second time the leaders of the once-estranged nations have met this year.

Obama and Castro smiled and shook hands before beginning their private talk on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

SEE ALSO: Cuba's Castro slams U.S. trade embargo at United Nations

The encounter comes as the Cold War adversaries go about the long and complex process of normalizing relations following decades of animosity. The U.S. recently eased rules for citizens who want to visit or do business in Cuba to help fostering greater economic freedom on the island.

The White House said the leaders discussed additional steps each government can take to deepen cooperation. Obama also reiterated U.S. support for human rights in Cuba, a sticking point in the relationship, the White House said.

See Barack Obama and Raul Castro meeting earlier this year:

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US, Cuba leaders meet for 2nd time in this year
US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama, right, leans over towards Cuban President Raul Castro during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this Saturday, April 11, 2015 photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, smiles as he looks over towards Cuban President Raul Castro, left, during their historic meeting, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. The leaders of the United States and Cuba held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations that had seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro waves as he arrives to the Summit of the Americas inauguration ceremony in Panama City, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
President Barack Obama, far right middle row, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, far left same row, attend the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony with other leaders from the Americas and Caribbean in Panama City, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right middle row, and Cuban President Raul Castro, left middle row, and other world Leaders participates in the inauguration ceremony of the Summit of the Americas arrival ceremony in Panama City, Panama, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cuba's President Raul Castro, center, waves next to Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela, left, and Panama's first lady Lorena Castillo as he arrives to the Summit of the Americas inauguration ceremony in Panama City, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Leaders of the Americas attend the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention Center in Panama City on April 10, 2015. US President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro stood near each other at a historic Summit of the Americas on Friday, marking a major milestone in their efforts to end decades of animosity. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, center, waves next to Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela, left, and Panama's first lady Lorena Castillo as he arrives to the Summit of the Americas inauguration ceremony in Panama City, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Panama's first lady Lorena Castillo as he arrives to the Summit of the Americas' inauguration ceremony in Panama City, Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives in Panama City on April 9, 2015 to attend the Summit of the Americas for the first time and set up a historic encounter with US President Barack Obama. Regional leaders begin to arrive for a historic Summit of the Americas that will see the US and Cuban presidents sit face to face for the first time in decades. AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama tours the Miraflores section of the Panama Canal on April 10, 2015 in Panama City. US President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro will break bread with other Americas leaders at a historic summit Friday, a potent symbol of their efforts to end decades of animosity. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez focused on the pace of normalizing relations following the meeting, saying speeding up the process will require Obama using his executive authority to substantially modify the decades-old U.S. economic embargo.

Rodriguez said actions Obama has taken so far "have a very limited value, a very limited scope and do not deal with any significant aspects when it comes to the implementation of the blockade against Cuba."

But many Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, oppose lifting the embargo at this stage.

Obama and Castro surprised the world last December by announcing they had agreed to restore diplomatic relations.

Since then, the two countries have reopened embassies in each other's capitals. But sharp differences remain, particularly over Cuba's human rights record and detainment of political prisoners and the economic embargo. Cuba also insists on the return of land occupied by the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay; the U.S. says that is not in the plan.

In his address Monday at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting, Obama discussed the new approach toward Cuba and said he was confident that Congress "will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore."

Obama and Castro first spoke in December after the secret process to restore diplomatic relations was revealed.

They met in person in April while attending a regional summit in Panama. Before then, the last time a U.S. and Cuban leader had convened a substantive meeting was in 1958.

Obama and Castro spoke by telephone again earlier this month before Pope Francis visited Cuba and the United States. Francis was a go-between for the U.S. and Cuba during their secret talks.

Obama also met Tuesday with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan.

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.

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