U.S. closing in on recommendation to remove Cuba from state terrorism list
The U.S. State Department is closing in on a decision to recommend removal of Cuba from its list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism, days before President Barack Obama attends a regional summit with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.
Obama ordered the review after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17 and has vowed to act quickly once he receives the recommendation, which would mark a major move toward ending five decades of estrangement.
Obama leaves on Wednesday for a trip to Jamaica and then to Panama, where he will participate in the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas and come face-to-face with Castro.
A U.S. official told Reuters the State Department could send its conclusions to Obama this week calling for the Communist-ruled island to be taken off the blacklist.
Cuba’s presence on the state-sponsored terror list has been a major stumbling block to efforts to restore relations and re-establish embassies. Havana has flatly demanded its removal before diplomatic ties can be restored.
Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors – a distinction it has shared with Iran, Sudan and Syria – in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies in Colombia and elsewhere.
Two U.S. officials close to the matter said an inter-agency team carrying out the review was under pressure from high levels of the administration to wrap up their investigation. But the officials said the exact timing was still being worked out and further delays were possible.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the State Department process would likely “move to the next stage relatively soon” but said he “wouldn’t necessarily expect a final decision in the next day or two,” suggesting that Obama would still need some time to consider the matter.