Obama officially asks Congress to remove Cuba off terror list

News from Cuba | Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The United States no longer wants to list Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House announced. Its removal is a key step in President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations between the US and Cuba.

Obama submitted the legally required report and certification documents required to Congress to officially remove Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House National Security Council tweeted Tuesday.

"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," the White House said in a statement.

“Put simply, [Obama] is acting to remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list because Cuba is not a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting, tweeted.

The move to clear Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list comes just two days after a historic meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama.

It was the first meeting of leaders from the the two countries in over 50 years ‒ since before the Cuban Revolution, in which Castro’s brother Fidel Castro overthrew the Cuban government in 1959.

After Cuba’s removal, the remaining countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) applauded the move on Twitter.

“[White House] and State Dept agree it’s time to remove Cuba from Terrorism list,” he wrote. “Good move. The list should mean something. It means more now.”

In last April’s annual Country Report on Terrorism, the State Department admitted that Cuba did not belong on the list.

“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” the report said. It did note that Cuba has historic ties to two regional terrorist groups ‒ the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) in Spain and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ‒ bus said the ties “have become more distant.”

Final removal requires congressional action within 45 days. If Congress approves, it would pave the way for the US to open an embassy in Havana, and Cuba to open an embassy in Washington, DC.

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