Obama and Raul Castro expected to meet at Summit of the Americas

President Obama will meet with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro later this week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, the State Department announced on Tuesday.

Although no formal meeting is scheduled, the two leaders will meet on the sidelines sometime during the two-day talks.

The Hill:

“I’m sure that President Obama will be interacting with President Castro at the summit events as leaders gather on the margins of those events,” Rhodes said on a conference call.

U.S. officials revealed last week that Obama and Castro would interact at the gathering of leaders from the Western Hemisphere in Panama City, which runs April 10-11. But the format of the encounter had not been clear.

The informal meeting will be the first between Obama and Castro since the U.S. president announced in December he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Some members of Congress and business leaders applauded the move to re-establish ties with Cuba, saying it ended a failed policy of isolation and will expand trade and travel with Cuba

But many Republicans, and some Democrats, have dismissed it as a giveaway to the Castro regime, saying it does nothing to address human rights abuses and restrictions on free speech on the island.

U.S. and Cuban officials have held three rounds of talks since December to form new diplomatic ties. A sticking point in the process is Cuba’s demand that the U.S. remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama said the State Department would review Cuba’s status on the list in December.

Rhodes said Tuesday that review is nearing its conclusion.

As expected, it is likely that Cuba will indeed be removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism:

The State Department is expected to recommend that Cuba be removed from the government's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday, a notorious designation that has been a stumbling block in the establishment of embassies in both Havana and Washington.

"Our expectation" is that Cuba will be removed from the list, the official said. But the official cautioned the Obama administration has yet to make any formal announcement. While that announcement from the State Department is not expected Tuesday, it could come as early as Wednesday.

On a conference call with reporters, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the State Department is "nearing its completion" of its review of the state sponsor of terrorism designation process. He did not rule out an announcement this week.

Cuba has raised the designation as a major objection in its talks with U.S. officials regarding normalizing relations between the two Cold War adversaries.

Marco Rubio sent a letter to the president last month, objecting to Cuba's removal from the list:

"The United States cannot in good faith remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List while the Castro regime harbors terrorists who have killed Americans, actively supports designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by harboring their members and continues to flout international law through clandestine weapon transfers with a rogue regime like North Korea," Rubio wrote in the letter.

Rubio has a point, but the White House points out that George Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008 while in futile negotiations with them to halt their nuclear program. 

Cuba is harboring several U.S. domestic terrorists as well as some notorious Latin American revolutionaries wanted in their own countries.  But in service to the goal of normalizing relations with Cuba, the U.S. is apparently going to avert its gaze and remove Castro's government from the list of terror sponsors.

President Obama will meet with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro later this week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, the State Department announced on Tuesday.

Although no formal meeting is scheduled, the two leaders will meet on the sidelines sometime during the two-day talks.

The Hill:

“I’m sure that President Obama will be interacting with President Castro at the summit events as leaders gather on the margins of those events,” Rhodes said on a conference call.

U.S. officials revealed last week that Obama and Castro would interact at the gathering of leaders from the Western Hemisphere in Panama City, which runs April 10-11. But the format of the encounter had not been clear.

The informal meeting will be the first between Obama and Castro since the U.S. president announced in December he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Some members of Congress and business leaders applauded the move to re-establish ties with Cuba, saying it ended a failed policy of isolation and will expand trade and travel with Cuba

But many Republicans, and some Democrats, have dismissed it as a giveaway to the Castro regime, saying it does nothing to address human rights abuses and restrictions on free speech on the island.

U.S. and Cuban officials have held three rounds of talks since December to form new diplomatic ties. A sticking point in the process is Cuba’s demand that the U.S. remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama said the State Department would review Cuba’s status on the list in December.

Rhodes said Tuesday that review is nearing its conclusion.

As expected, it is likely that Cuba will indeed be removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism:

The State Department is expected to recommend that Cuba be removed from the government's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday, a notorious designation that has been a stumbling block in the establishment of embassies in both Havana and Washington.

"Our expectation" is that Cuba will be removed from the list, the official said. But the official cautioned the Obama administration has yet to make any formal announcement. While that announcement from the State Department is not expected Tuesday, it could come as early as Wednesday.

On a conference call with reporters, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the State Department is "nearing its completion" of its review of the state sponsor of terrorism designation process. He did not rule out an announcement this week.

Cuba has raised the designation as a major objection in its talks with U.S. officials regarding normalizing relations between the two Cold War adversaries.

Marco Rubio sent a letter to the president last month, objecting to Cuba's removal from the list:

"The United States cannot in good faith remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List while the Castro regime harbors terrorists who have killed Americans, actively supports designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by harboring their members and continues to flout international law through clandestine weapon transfers with a rogue regime like North Korea," Rubio wrote in the letter.

Rubio has a point, but the White House points out that George Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008 while in futile negotiations with them to halt their nuclear program. 

Cuba is harboring several U.S. domestic terrorists as well as some notorious Latin American revolutionaries wanted in their own countries.  But in service to the goal of normalizing relations with Cuba, the U.S. is apparently going to avert its gaze and remove Castro's government from the list of terror sponsors.