U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday told Congress his intent to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House said.
In a message to Congress, Obama certifies that the Cuban government “has not provided any support for international terrorism” over the past six months and it has provided assurances that it will not support terrorist acts in the future.
Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro announced in December a thaw in relations following more than five decades of enmity. Washington and Havana have held three rounds of talks in past months in a bid to restore diplomatic relations.
Obama had instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Cuba’s terror listing has been a major sticking point in making concrete steps toward establishing diplomatic ties.
“After a careful review of Cuba’s record, which was informed by the intelligence community, as well as assurances provided by the Cuban government, the Secretary of State concluded that Cuba met the conditions for rescinding its designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the White House said in a statement.
The Congress will have 45 days to review Obama’s decision before it is formally approved, but lawmakers are unlikely to block the move.
Obama’s decision came days after he and Castro held talks on the sidelines of a regional summit in Panama, the first meeting between Cuban and U.S. leaders in more than half a century.
“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,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in the statement.
Cuba has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 and was one of only four countries on the list — the others are Iran, Syria and Sudan.
“Circumstances have changed since 1982,” Kerry said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago.”
“Our determination, pursuant to the facts, including corroborative assurances received from the Government of Cuba and the statutory standard, is that the time has come to rescind Cuba’ s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” he added.