Obama will meet with Raul Castro in Cuba

- President Barack Obama says his upcoming visit to Cuba will advance U.S. efforts to restore ties with the communist nation and improve the lives of Cubans.

Obama next month will be making the first trip to Cuba by a sitting president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the U.S. still has "serious differences" with Cuban President Raul Castro's government.

He says Obama will raise issues of human rights and political freedoms in discussions with Castro.

"As the President has said, Cuba will not change overnight, nor will all of the various differences between our countries go away. But the guiding principle of our Cuba policy — our North Star — remains taking steps that will improve the lives of the Cuban people," said Rhodes.

The White House confirmed the trip via Twitter on Thursday.

"Next month, I'll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people. — President Obama (@POTUS) February 18, 2016

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties.

The Obama administration is eager to make rapid progress on building trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba before Obama leaves office.

The two nations signed a deal Tuesday restoring commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades.

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