Raul Castro hails US-Cuba deal

Cuban President Raul Castro says he is ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement with the US.

Cuban President Raul Castro has hailed the removal of an "obstacle" in US-Cuba relations, saying he was ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement.

"The Cuban people cheer this correct decision of US President Barack Obama. It represents the removal of an obstacle in relations between our countries," he said in a speech closing the twice-yearly meeting of parliament on Saturday.

Castro chaired the gathering, which unanimously ratified the deal between Havana and Washington on Friday, in a session largely focused on the communist island's historic renewal of ties with Washington.

The United States and Cuba made the breakthrough in their Cold War stand-off Wednesday, launching measures to ease a five-decade US trade embargo as well as a prisoner exchange. First official talks are scheduled for January.

"We reiterate our willingness for respectful and reciprocal dialogue concerning disagreements," Castro said, adding that Cuba "accepted dialogue... on any topic about all things here but also in the United States."

On Friday, US President Barack Obama insisted he shared the concerns of Cuban dissidents and human rights activist "that this is still a regime that represses it people."

"But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change than we would have otherwise."

But the US president said he didn't "anticipate overnight changes."

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