president obama cuba off terror list_00003022.jpg
president obama cuba off terror list_00003022.jpg
Now playing
00:45
Obama asks Congress to move Cuba off terror list
recorrido por guantanamo caimanera cuba pkg patrick oppmann_00023824.jpg
recorrido por guantanamo caimanera cuba pkg patrick oppmann_00023824.jpg
Now playing
03:14
Isolated Cuban town still calls US 'the enemy'
PHOTO: Shutterstock
Now playing
02:34
State Department pulls employees out of Cuba
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 20: A protester holds an American flag and a Cuban one as she joins with others opposed to U.S. President Barack Obama
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 20: A protester holds an American flag and a Cuban one as she joins with others opposed to U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement earlier in the week of a change to the United States Cuba policy stand together at Jose Marti park on December 20, 2014 in Miami, Florida. President Obama announced a move toward normalizing the relationship with Cuba after a swap of prisoners took place. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:59
'Wet foot, dry foot' policy: one thing to know
cuba us reestablishes flgihts orig jpm_00011024.jpg
cuba us reestablishes flgihts orig jpm_00011024.jpg
Now playing
01:21
Headed to Cuba? What you need to know
cuba us diplomats recalled pkg oppmann _00023322.jpg
cuba us diplomats recalled pkg oppmann _00023322.jpg
Now playing
01:27
Is this audio injuring US staff in Cuba?
A Cuban flag flutters on top of a rock near the U.S. Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015.
PHOTO: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty
A Cuban flag flutters on top of a rock near the U.S. Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015.
Now playing
02:07
US: More victims of sonic weapon in Cuba
The American flag flies at the U.S. Embassy following a ceremony August 14, 2015, in Havana.
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
The American flag flies at the U.S. Embassy following a ceremony August 14, 2015, in Havana.
Now playing
03:43
US diplomats hit with possible acoustic attack
cuba wet foot dry foot oppmann walker holmes segment_00013223.jpg
PHOTO: WSVN
cuba wet foot dry foot oppmann walker holmes segment_00013223.jpg
Now playing
03:43
Cuban immigration policy ends
First U.S. cruise to Cuba_00002627.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
First U.S. cruise to Cuba_00002627.jpg
Now playing
01:29
First U.S.-to-Cuba cruise in decades sets sail
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks following meeting between the US and its European allies on the situations in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemenon March 13, 2016 in Paris.
PHOTO: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks following meeting between the US and its European allies on the situations in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemenon March 13, 2016 in Paris.
Now playing
01:05
John Kerry: Carnival needs to not discriminate
cuba kiddie cabinet cuomo pkg_00000000.jpg
cuba kiddie cabinet cuomo pkg_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:54
Cuban kids discuss Obama visit
cuba cruise ship policy change carnival pkg_00005022.jpg
PHOTO: WSVN
cuba cruise ship policy change carnival pkg_00005022.jpg
Now playing
01:56
Cuba may ease ban on Cuban-born travelers
cuba travel destinations tips drone footage orig_00000224.jpg
cuba travel destinations tips drone footage orig_00000224.jpg
Now playing
01:55
Drone captures views of long-forbidden island
TWL Journeys Cuba_00002112.jpg
TWL Journeys Cuba_00002112.jpg
Now playing
01:15
What does Cuba look like today?
US Cuba history relations orig_00014029.jpg
US Cuba history relations orig_00014029.jpg
Now playing
02:02
U.S. & Cuba's complicated history in 2 mins
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance the tango with tango dancers during the State Dinner at the Centro Cultural Kirchner, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
PHOTO: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance the tango with tango dancers during the State Dinner at the Centro Cultural Kirchner, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Now playing
00:49
Obama and first lady dance the tango
(CNN) —  

President Barack Obama recommended Tuesday that Cuba be removed from the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Long sought by the Cuban government, Obama’s decision, expected for weeks now, will likely expedite plans to re-establish embassies in both Washington and Havana.

In a brief message to notify Congress of his recommendation, Obama explained his action was based on specific criteria that warranted Cuba’s removal from the list.

“The government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period; and the government of Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future,” the President said in the message.

Obama’s move drew criticism from Republican contenders in the 2016 presidential race.

“We’re not a step closer to freedom in Cuba because of the steps the president is taking,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters after an event in Ohio.

But Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said it’s wise to remove Cuba because “that list ought to mean something,” and that it could help diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“I know [Republicans] don’t agree with me on this issue, but I think it was the right move to make and I’m glad the president did it,” he said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

Cuba was placed on the state sponsors of terrorism list in 1982 when Havana was busy supporting armed insurgencies in Latin America, during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Last December, Obama announced his intent to normalize relations with Cuba, insisting that previous U.S. efforts had failed to topple the governments of Fidel and Raul Castro through diplomatic isolation. Instead, the President argued a new approach of engagement was needed to ease tensions between Washington and Havana.

9 questions you wanted to ask about the Cuban embargo

Almost as soon as the new discussions began, however, Cuban officials complained their nation’s placement on the list of state sponsors of terrorism was unfair and outdated.

Last week, the State Department recommended to Obama that Cuba be removed from the list, concluding Havana was no longer a sponsor of terrorist activities abroad.

“Circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on the President’s decision.

“Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago,” Kerry added.

The most dramatic sign of the improved U.S.-Cuban relationship came last Saturday, when Obama and Raul Castro sat down for an hour long discussion on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It was the first such meeting between U.S. and Cuban leaders since 1959.

Congress has 45 days to pass a joint resolution blocking the President’s decision. But a senior administration official said it was unlikely lawmakers would be able muster the votes needed to override a presidential veto.

Obama and Castro meet, launch new era of U.S.-Cuba ties