US-Cuba relations
US President Barack Obama (L) greets Cuban President Raul Castro (C) before giving his speech, as Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff looks on, at the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at the First National Bank football stadium Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters file photo

The Obama administration has given enough indications that it intends to remove Cuba from the list of countries which Washington considers are involved in state-sponsored terrorism.

This will mark the reconciliation of the former cold war enemies as the leaders of the two countries are set to meet at an upcoming summit that is being billed as an historic encounter.

President Barack Obama will attend the Summit of the Americas in Panama and for the first time Washington has not objected to a Cuban leader's attendance. Cuba has not attended the regional conference since 1994.

The conclave will provide an opportunity for Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro to come face-to-face formally for the first time. Though the two leaders are not expected to hold bilateral discussions, an interaction on the sidelines of the summit and a symbolic handshake are expected to have major implications for ties between the US and Cuba.

Ahead of his arrival in Panama, Obama said the US State Department had finished reviewing Cuba's terror status as part of Washington's renewed diplomatic outreach to Cuba. The review began in December, Obama said.

"That review has been completed. I won't make a formal announcement today about what those recommendations are until I have them," the US president told reporters in Jamaica.

The White House has also announced that US Secretary of State John Kerry held a closed-door meeting with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez in Panama City Hotel prior to Obama's arrival. This is the highest-level meeting between the two sides so far.

If Cuba is removed from the list of nations accused of state-sponsored terrorism, it will leave only three other nations – Iran, Syria and Sudan – on the blacklist.

"The State Department's recommendation to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the result of a months-long technical review, is an important step forward in our efforts to forge a more fruitful relationship with Cuba," said Senator Ben Cardin, a leading member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Should Obama decide to carry forward the State Department's recommendation, the Republican-controlled Congress will have 45 days to decide whether or not to back the president.