The United States officially removed Cuba from its list of sponsors of terrorism Friday. The removal is believed to be a major step toward rebuilding diplomatic relations between the two countries, which have a long history of disagreements.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the U.S. rescission shows that the Caribbean island nation has met the statutory criteria. President Barack Obama recommended the change in status to Congress in April.
“While the U.S. has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a state sponsor of terrorism designation,” the Wall Street Journal said, quoting Rathke. Havana had complained that the designation could stand in the way of reopening embassies.
A 45-day congressional notification period followed Obama’s recommendation of the change in Cuba’s status. Though the president's opponents were divided in there opinions on the issue, lawmakers chose not to challenge the recommendation.
President Obama asked Secretary of State Kerry in December 2014 to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The State Department’s press release Friday said Kerry had completed the review in April and recommended that Cuba should be struck from the terrorism list.
Obama submitted certification to Congress that Cuba had not supported international terrorism in the past six months. In addition, he also notified Congress that Cuba had given assurance that it would not provide support to international terrorism in the future. The final decision to strike Cuba from the terrorism list was made on May 29.
Sen. Tom Udall indicated on May 27 that Cuba and the United States were on the verge of establishing a new relationship, CBS News reported. Udall visited Havana Wednesday and said that the 45-day period for Congress to challenge Obama’s recommendation would end Friday.
The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher said that Cuba would be granted greater access to international financing with its change in status. But Cuba's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is only the first step in normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations. There remain many differences to be worked out, and further progress could be slowed by other obstacles.