|Geann Pineda |||Apr 15, 2015 04:30 AM EDT|
(Photo : Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015.
President Barack Obama will strike off Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism -- a historic move by the U.S. in finally reaching normal U.S.-Cuba relations.
Cuba's inclusion in the state sponsors of tourism list had been a tough point of discussion as both countries work on thawing relations after nearly five decades of seclusion.
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After a thorough review, the White House explained Cuba has met the conditions required for it to be stricken off the list. Before the removal of Cuba from the list could take effect, Obama must be able to certify that the island nation has not aided any terrorist group in the past six months.
The president must also certify that the Cuban government issued assurances, that it will not provide support for any acts of tourism in the future.
Obama thanked Cuban President Raul Castro for being open to much closer ties with the U.S.
"I think if we can build on this spirit of mutual respect and candidness, that over time we will see not just a transformation in the relationship between our two countries, but a positive impact throughout the hemisphere and the world," Obama said.
Presidential hopeful and Cuban American Republican Senator Marco Rubio criticized the White House's move saying Cuba still provides support for acts of terrorism.
"They harbour fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago. It's also the country that's helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations," said Rubio, who announced his presidential bid on Monday.
Despite efforts to normalize relations, White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledges that the U.S. and Cuba still had opposing views in terms of policies and actions. However, Earnest stressed these differences were not significant to the terror sponsor list.
The U.S. had placed Cuba under state sponsors of tourism on March 1, 1982. Three other countries in the list include Iran, Sudan and Syria. Countries designated under this category are subject to U.S. sanctions, including restrictions on foreign assistance and ban on arms export and sales.
The U.S. believed Cuba provided support for the Basque separatist group ETA and the FARC guerillas of Colombia.
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