December 15, 2017
Friday, May 29, 2015

US drops Cuba from list of state sponsors of terrorism

A man stands near the national flags of the US and Cuba on the balcony of a hotel being used by the first US congressional delegation to Cuba since the change of policy announced by US President Barack Obama on December 17, in Havana.

The United States has formally dropped Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, an important step toward restoring diplomatic ties but one that will have limited effect on removing US sanctions on the Communist-ruled island.

US President Barack Obama had said on April 14 he would drop the former Cold War rival from the list, initiating a 45-day review period for Congress that expired on Friday.

Obama ordered a review of Cuba's status on the terrorism list as part of a landmark policy shift on December 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 broad normalization of ties.

Removal from the list is more symbolic than of practical significance.

It ends a prohibition on US economic aid, a ban on U.S. arms exports, controls on "dual-use" items with military and civilian applications, and a requirement that the United States oppose loans to Cuba by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But those bans remain in place under other, overlapping US sanctions, since Cuba is still subject to a wider US economic embargo that has been in place since the early 1960s.

"As a practical matter, most restrictions related to exports and foreign aid will remain due to the comprehensive trade and arms embargo," said a US official on condition of anonymity.

The official said Cuba's removal might make private companies and banks more open to doing authorized business with Cuba.

Cuba had cited its designation as a state terrorism sponsor as an obstacle to re-establishing diplomatic relations and upgrading their so-called interests sections in Havana and Washington into full-blown embassies.

The two sides have held four rounds of high-level negotiations since December and say they are closing in on a deal to reopen the embassies. The State Department must give the US Congress a 15-day notice before opening an embassy.

Washington put Cuba on its terrorism blacklist in 1982, when Havana supported armed guerrilla movements in Latin America.

That support ended with the 1991 collapse of Cuba's close trade and aid benefactor, the Soviet Union, but Cuba stayed on the US list. Only Iran, Syria and Sudan now remain on it.

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Tags:  US  Cuba  list  Obama  Raúl Castro  terrorism  

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