The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama intends to remove Cuba from the US government's list of nations that sponsor terrorism, eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations after decades of hostilities. The decision to remove Cuba from the list represents a crucial step in Obama’s effort to turn the page on a Cold War-era dispute.
It came after a much-anticipated meeting between Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama over the weekend, the first such formal session between the leaders of the two countries in more than half a century.
For more than 30 years, Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation shared only by Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Cuba’s place on the list has long snarled its access to financial markets and, more recently, emerged as a sticking point in negotiations to reopen embassies that have officially been closed for five decades.
Obama ordered a review of Cuba’s status in December, as he and Raul Castro agreed to move toward normal relations.
White House officials said Tuesday that Obama had approved a recommendation by Secretary of State John Kerry to take Cuba off the terrorism list after the review of Cuba’s record and assurances from Havana that it would not support terrorism in the future.
“We will continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but our concerns over a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
He added the president would continue to “support our interests and values through engagement with the Cuban government and people.”
The State Department determined that Cuba had not engaged in terrorist activity in the past six months — a criterion for designating a country as a state sponsor of terrorism — and therefore no longer belonged on the list.