Cuba’s designation as terrorism sponsor snags negotiations with US
WASHINGTON D.C. – Cuba’s spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism has emerged as a major sticking point in efforts to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.
This was revealed on Friday during a meeting of Cuban and American officials for a second round of talks aimed at pursuing the pledge by the US to restore diplomatic relations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said removing Cuba from the list was not part of the negotiations but, instead, an evaluation that the department must make based on congressionally-mandated criteria.
He said the department must determine whether Cuba, in the last six months, has been engaged in supporting international terrorist acts.
“That evaluation will be made appropriately, and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed,” Kerry told reporters, without indicating how long that would take.
At the same time, Cuban officials said they could not envision opening a formal embassy in the United States while their country remains on the terror list. The only other countries listed are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
“It would be a contradiction, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, if Cuba still remains on the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism,” Gustavo Machin, deputy director of American affairs at the Cuba Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Wednesday in Havana.
But after Friday’s talks, Josefina Vidal, a senior Cuban foreign ministry official, told reporters that removing Cuba from the terrorism list was not a prerequisite for diplomatic ties.
In December, US President Barak Obama announced that Cuba’s terror designation would be reviewed.
US State Department officials have sought to play down the terror list’s significance in the discussions about reopening embassies, declining to say when a review of Cuba’s designation would be completed.