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cuban thaw

The US government has approved a ferry service between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years.

Services between the two countries stopped when the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960.

The US announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba in December 2014.

The US government has now lifted the ban and a number of ferry companies say they have been given licenses.

The latest announcement does not necessarily mean that boats will start launching for Cuban shores straight away, as there are bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in both countries.Florida Cuba ferry service approved

However, the move is another indication of Washington’s desire to put the policies of isolating Cuba in the past and begin a new era of co-operation.

President of the Miami-based United Americas Shipping Services Joseph Hinson called the move “a great step forward”.

Joseph Hinson said that “if all goes smoothly we could have things up and running by September”.

Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said it also had a license.

“This is a historical event. Thanks to President Barack Obama, to whom we are very grateful, for his leadership,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.

Ferries will also be allowed to transport cargo to Cuba, which sits 90 miles from southern Florida.

A new charter flight service from New York City, operated by JetBlue, had already been announced.

The service was agreed during a recent trade delegation of New York-based companies to Cuba, led by state governor Andrew Cuomo.

Despite the new flights and ferry services, a travel ban on Cuba is still in place for US citizens.

Only those who have the right paperwork in 12 different categories are permitted to visit Cuba.


Cuba has welcomed US decision to remove it from the state department’s terror list, saying it should never have been on the list in the first place.

The move comes amid a normalization of ties between the US and Cuba.

Cuba’s presence on the list alongside Syria, Iran and Sudan was a sticking point for Cuba during talks to reopen embassies.

A US trade embargo against Cuba remains and can only be ended by Congress.

Barack Obama met Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama last week, four months after he announced a historic thaw in ties with the communist island nation.

He said on April 14 that the government of Cuba had “not provided any support for international terrorism” over the past six months.

Barack Obama added that it had “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future”.Barack Obama Raul Castro Cuban thaw

A statement from Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat responsible for dealing with the US, said: “The Cuban government recognized 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.”

In Havana, ordinary Cubans welcomed the move.

Cuba was first placed on the state department list in 1982, for what the US called efforts “to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism”.

The US believes Cuba had long provided a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group, according to its 2013 Report on Terrorism.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the US still had differences with Cuban policies and actions, but they were not “relevant” to the terror list.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a candidate for the US presidency, condemned the White House decision, saying Cuba remained a state sponsor of terrorism.


President Barack Obama has told Latin American leaders that the days when the United States could freely interfere in regional affairs are past.

Barack Obama was speaking just before the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

The US president and Cuban leader Raul Castro shook hands as the opening ceremony began, their first encounter since a December detente.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro’s historic formal talks due on April 11 could be overshadowed by tensions between Venezuela and the US.Barack Obama handshake Raul Castro

The US president told a forum of civil society leaders in Panama City that “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past”.

At past Summits of the Americas, which bring together the leaders of North, Central and South America, the US has come in for criticism for its embargo against Cuba and its objection to having Cuba participate in the gatherings.

This seventh summit is the first which Cuba will attend and much of the attention will be focused on the body language between the former foes.

Barack Obama’s speech before the summit came a day after the State Department recommended that Cuba be removed from the US lists of countries which sponsor terrorism.

President Barack Obama is set for a key meeting with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro in Panama.

Delegations of 35 nations from North, Central and South America are gathering in Panama for what is being billed as a “historic” Summit of the Americas.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro will meet for the first time since a recent thaw in US-Cuba relations.

The two shook hands once before, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013.Raul Castro and Barack Obama in Panama

On April 10, Barack Obama and Raul Castro spoke on the phone after arriving in Panama City, according to a Facebook post by Jorge Leganoa, the deputy director of Cuba’s state-run National Information Agency.

He provided no additional details but White House officials confirmed to news agencies the call had taken place.

The White House has been playing coy, saying that while there are no plans for any formal one-to-one meetings between the two presidents, there may well be an opportunity to “meet on the margins”.

Meanwhile, the State Department has recommended Cuba be removed from the US list of countries which sponsor terrorism.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Secretary of State John Kerry held closed-door discussions in Panama, in the highest level meeting between the two countries in more than half a century.

Meanwhile, the US state department has reportedly recommended that Cuba be removed from its list of states said to sponsor terrorism.

Such a move could pave the way for the two countries re-opening embassies.

President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro are also due to hold their first formal meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama over the coming days.

Few details have emerged from the meeting between John Kerry and Bruno Rodriguez. The last comparable high-level meeting was in 1959, when Fidel Castro met then Vice-President Richard Nixon.Barack Obama Panama summit

Diplomatic ties froze two years later, but last year Barack Obama announced that a “new chapter” in relations would commence.

Meanwhile Senator Ben Cardin, a leading member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said the US State Department had recommended removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The move was “the result of a months-long technical review” and would be “an important step forward in our efforts to forge a more fruitful relationship with Cuba”, he said.

Cuba is one of four countries still on the US list of countries accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism; Iran, Sudan and Syria are others.

The communist country was first put on the list in 1982 for offering sanctuary to militant ETA Basque separatists and Colombian Farc rebels.

Removing Cuba from the list could lead to the easing of financial restrictions on Cuba’s access to loans and aid.

If Barack Obama opts to accept the state department’s recommendations, Congress would have 45 days to decide whether to override him.

The president faces fierce critics of his Cuban policy at home, such as from Cuban-American Ted Cruz, who is a Republican presidential candidate.

Correspondents say removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism will throw a stark light on the US’s relations with Venezuela.

The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hopes to bring a petition signed by 10 million of his citizens urging Barack Obama to remove an order imposing sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses in an opposition crackdown.

Venezuela has many friends at the summit and other Latin American nations have criticized the order, which calls Caracas a US national security threat.

Barack Obama has tried to reduce tensions with Venezuela ahead of the summit, saying the US did not perceive the country as a threat.