[JURIST] The US government on Friday formally removed [press release] Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a positive step toward restoring Cuba-US diplomatic relations. US President Barack Obama [official website] said in April that he would drop Cuba from the list. In December Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro [JURIST news archive] stated they would take steps to restore diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961 by the US. Removal from this list ends a variety of sanctions from the US including opposing financial backing of the World Bank and International Monetary fund, US economic aid bans, and bans on US arms exports. Although not all sanctions have been removed from Cuba, the removal from the list may make private US companies and banks more likely to do business with Cuba. The two sides have held several rounds of negotiations since December and have stated they are close to a deal with to reopen US embassies. As of now, the only countries left on the list are Iran, Syria and Sudan.
The US and Cuba recently began working to restore ties for the first time since the nations severed relations [CFR backgrounder] in 1961. In April a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives proposing to tie any further removal of sanctions against Cuba to the nation's human rights record [JURIST report]. In January eight Senators introduced [JURIST report] legislation that would end US travel restrictions on Cuba. The legislation, which was introduced by Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, would also end financial transaction restrictions on travel between the two countries. In December Obama directed [JURIST report] Secretary of State John Kerry to reestablish diplomatic relations and to review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. He also announced "steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba." In 2011 Obama ordered the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to take steps to ease restrictions [JURIST report] on travel and remittances to Cuba. The regulations built off of those issued [JURIST report] in April 2009, which eased travel and remittances restrictions for Cuban Americans and their families in Cuba only.