Havana: US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro appeared together on Monday, kicking off the first official talks between their two governments after decades of Cold War hostility.

The discussions, to take place after a welcoming ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution, are viewed as a pivotal moment in the thaw that Obama and Castro agreed to set in motion 15 months ago.

(Also Read: On historic visit President Obama says “It is wonderful to be in Cuba”)

The leaders were expected to discuss a path toward normalizing relations, and the profound differences that still divide them economically and politically, including the US trade embargo on Cuba and human rights issues, New York Times reported.

The encounter was their third face-to-face meeting since they announced the policy shift in December 2014.

They met and shook hands in April 2015 at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations in Panama City, and they spoke in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, when Obama told Castro he would like to visit this year if the conditions were right.

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