EFEWashington

U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Cuban counterpart Raul Castro a day before the two men arrived in Panama for the Summit of the Americas, the White House said Friday.

The call took place Wednesday, before Obama left Washington for a brief visit to Jamaica en route to Panama, a presidential aide said.

Only the second phone conversation in more than 50 years between the leaders of the United States and Cuba came on the eve of Obama's much-anticipated encounter with Castro at the summit, which gets under way Friday.

Unconfirmed accounts from U.S. media indicate the presidents will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit.

The talks are set for Saturday, according to ABC News.

Wednesday's phone call marks another step forward for the plan Obama and Castro announced in December for the restoration of diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961.

Senior diplomats from both countries have met several times to discuss the re-opening of embassies, while the Obama administration has taken limited steps to ease the economic embargo Washington imposed on Cuba in 1962.

News of the phone call followed a meeting Thursday in Panama between Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez for what a U.S. spokesperson described as "an extensive and very constructive discussion."

The Kerry-Rodriguez was the highest level bilateral encounter in more than 50 years.