Cuban President Raul Castro says he is ready to enter into negotiations with the United States, following U.S. President Barack Obama's call for the island nation to reciprocate to his recent overtures.

Speaking late Thursday at summit of Latin American leftist leaders in Venezuela, Mr. Castro said Havana is prepared to discuss any issue the new U.S. administration wants to, including human rights, press freedoms and political prisoners.  

But the Cuban leader insists the communist island nation be treated as an equal.  He also called for the release of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States on espionage charges.

During a press conference Thursday in Mexico City, Mr. Obama says his recent decision to relax travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to relatives on the island is a sign Washington is ready to "recast our relationship" with Cuba.

But the president said he did not expect the U.S.-Cuban relationship - frozen for 50 years - to "thaw overnight."

The comments by the two presidents were made on the eve of the 34-nation Summit of the Americans in Trinidad and Tobago, a gathering of 34 nations in the Western Hemisphere - except Cuba, which has not been invited.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.