HAVANA (AP) — President Raul Castro has put on ice highly anticipated plans to ease travel restrictions on Cubans, telling lawmakers the nation would not be pressured into moving too fast and citing what he called continued aggression from the United States as the reason for his cautious approach.

Cuba has been awash in speculation the much hated regulations, which prevent most Cubans from leaving the island, might be lifted during the Dec. 23 session of the National Assembly. But Castro said the time still wasn't right, despite a year of free-market reforms that has seen the Communist government legalize a real estate market and greatly increase private business ownership.

“Some have been pressuring us to take the step… as if we were talking about something insignificant, and not the destiny of the revolution,” Castro said, adding that those calling for an end to the travel restrictions “are forgetting the exceptional circumstances under which Cuba lives, encircled by the hostile policy…of the U.S. government.”

Castro criticized President Barack Obama, noting he is the 11th American president since the 1959 revolution led by his brother Fidel and appeared “not to understand” the sacrifices Cuba had made in its struggle for independence and sovereignty, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as Washington's 49-year trade and travel embargo.

“Sometimes, he Obama gives the impression he has not even been informed of this reality,” Castro said, repeating his willingness to normalize relations with the U.S. under the right conditions.