US Officially Removes Cuba From Terror Blacklist

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A Cuban gives the thumbs up from his balcony decorated with the US and Cuban flags in Havana, on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. (Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States officially removed Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism on Friday, setting the two nations up for a full renewal of diplomatic ties.

President Barack Obama originally announced in April that he was recommending that Cuba be removed from the terror blacklist after a State Department review. Friday marked the expiration of a 45-day period when Congress could have blocked the move.

“The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria,” the State Department said in a statement Friday.

The statement noted that the U.S. “has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions” but said these fall outside the criteria related to rescinding a state sponsor of terror designation.

The terror listing was one of the final barriers to restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Obama announced in December that he was ending a nearly half-century of frozen relations, stating that the freeze wasn’t benefiting either nation.

Officials have been negotiating the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, though some sticking points — like how freely American diplomats will be able to move around Cuba — remain.

The U.S. is eying the current head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, as the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.