US Drops Cuba from State Terrorism List, Paving the Way for Embassies

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Christie Slams Obama, Says U.S. Should Not Be Taking Cuba Off Of Terror Watchlist.

The State Department removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a largely symbolic step clearing the way for normalizing diplomatic relations 54 years after the U.S. severed ties after Cuba’s communist revolution.

Removal from the list, announced by the department on Friday, came as a matter of course because Congress made no move to block the action within 45 days after President Barack Obama unveiled plans to do so on April 14. “While the United States 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,” Jeff Rathke, a department spokesman, said in a statement. The terror designation had been a major sticking point for the island nation since President Obama announced in December that the two countries would be restoring diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility dating back to the Cold War. Obama recommended to Congress last month that Cuba no longer be formally listed as nation cultivating terrorism, a move that triggered a 45-day notification period allowing U.S. lawmakers to step in and challenge the re-designation. When the remaining issues are resolved, the Obama administration will give Congress 15 days’ notice of its intent to reopen an embassy in Havana and will seek to name an ambassador.

Obama ordered a review of Cuba’s status on the terrorism list as part of a landmark policy shift on Dec. 17, when he and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would seek to restore diplomatic relations that Washington severed in 1961, and work toward a broader normalization of ties. The Cold War-era designation was levied mainly for Cuba’s support of leftist guerrillas around the world and isolated the communist island from much of the world financial system because banks fear repercussions from doing business with designated countries. While the announcement overcomes a major obstacle in the normalizing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, significant hurdles in the process remain in place. It removes a prohibition on receiving US economic aid, a ban on US arms exports and controls on “dual-use” items with military and civilian applications. Through this new approach of engagement, we are finally in a position to advance our interests while simultaneously improving the lives of the Cuba people.” The terror list was a particularly charged issue for Cuba because of the U.S. history of supporting exile groups responsible for attacks on the island, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger flight from Barbados that killed 73 people aboard.

U.S. and Cuban officials have said the two sides are close to resolving the final issues but the most recent round of talks ended last Friday with no announcement of an agreement. Negotiations appeared to have been rocky between diplomats from both countries after officials failed last week to reach agreements on re-establishing embassies. Even as many of the biggest hurdles, including the terrorism designation, have been cleared, Washington and Havana are still wrangling over American demands that its diplomats be able to travel throughout Cuba and meet with dissidents without restrictions.

In April, Obama cited a four-month interagency review that concluded Cuba was no longer providing support for international terrorists such as the Basque separatist group ETA. Obama, a Democrat, has asked the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the 53-year-old US economic embargo against Cuba, but the Republican leadership in Congress has resisted calls to remove what has been a pillar of US foreign policy under nine presidents. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

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