US-Cuba relations
US President Barack Obama (L) and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro shake hands as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) looks on, before the inauguration of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama CityHandout via Reuters

The Obama Administration will remove Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced on 14 April. The announcement is the latest step in a thawing of relations with the Caribbean nation.

A statement by Secretary of State John Kerry revealed President Obama directed the State Department to review Cuba's terrorism sponsor designation and issue a report within six months. The State Department recommended the White House rescind Cuba's designation in a report submitted last week, the statement said.

"This recommendation reflects the Department's assessment that Cuba meets the criteria established by Congress for rescission," the statement read. "While the United State has had, and continues to have, significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions, these concerns and disagreements fall outside of the criteria for designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism."

Havana responded by saying: "The Cuban government recognised the fair decision made by the president of the United States to eliminate Cuba from a list that it never should have been included on, especially considering our country has been the victim of hundreds of acts of terrorism that have cost 3,478 lives and maimed 2,099 citizens."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio condemned the decision, according to the BBC. "They harbour fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago," the Cuban-American senator said. Rubio, who announced his presidential bid on 13 April, added, "It's also the country that's helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations."

According to the Associated Press, Cuba will officially be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism 45 days after Obama's message to Congress. While members of Congress could vote to block the move, Obama would likely veto that measure, the AP noted.

The White House's announcement follows a historic meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.