Before Obama and Castro, four historic handshakes

  • People
  • Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela amidst the rain at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec 10, 2013.

The unexpected gesture between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service recalls earlier similarly unlikely pairings.

BARACK Obama and Raul Castro’s public handshake at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday was the first such greeeting between US and Cuban leaders since Raul’s brother Fidel took power in the 1950s. Here are four earlier pairings once thought similarly unlikely:

> The 1972 handshake between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong ended 23 years of frozen relations between the United States and China. The exchange was built on Henry Kissinger’s diplomacy and that the two now had a common enemy in the Soviet Union.

> The 2012 handshake between the Queen and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander now Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, followed an earlier meeting witnessed by only five people in a private suite at Belfast’s Lyric theatre.

> Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin’s 1977 handshake with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat (pic, left) led to the signing of a peace treaty that was sealed two years later with a handshake on the White House lawn.

> Nelson Mandela and South African president F.W. de Klerk shake hands in 1990 after announcing an agreement on steps to talks on ending white-minority rule. – Guardian News & Media

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