WASHINGTON — The United States decided to drop Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism on Tuesday partly because of Cuban assurances that it would not support terrorism in the future, senior U.S. officials said.
“The assurances that they (provided) were fairly wide-ranging and fairly high-level,” said one senior U.S. official who briefed reporters, adding that the Cubans had pledged “that they will no longer support acts of terrorism in the future.”
The White House on Tuesday said President Barack Obama had decided to remove Cuba from the list, which follows the Dec. 17 U.S. and Cuban joint move to pursue normalizing relations after more than half a century of enmity.
The two countries have made headway toward formally agreeing to open embassies but have not yet reached an agreement, a second senior U.S. official told reporters.
For the United States, some of the issues involved include the ability for U.S. diplomats to travel freely around the island, upgrading its obsolete equipment and facilities in Havana and increasing its staffing levels.
“We’re still not quite there yet,” said the second senior official. “I’m optimistic.”
The U.S. Congress has 45 days to consider Obama’s decision to drop Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list before it takes effect. It was not immediately clear what would be the practical implications of being removed from the list.
In theory, once dropped Cuba would no longer be subject to certain sanctions including a ban on U.S. arms exports, controls on “dual-use” items with military and civilian applications, the prohibition of U.S. economic aid and automatic U.S. opposition to international financial institutions making loans to Cuba.
However, U.S. officials said that a series of other U.S. economic sanctions continued to apply.
“Economic sanctions under (the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control) Cuban asset control regulations will remain in effect and most transactions with Cuba and with Cuban nationals and with the Cuban government will remain prohibited absent authorization from Treasury,” said a third U.S. official.