President Trump said Friday that he would temporarily hold off on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, saying he was doing so at the request of the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Statutorily we are ready to do so.”
However, at the request of Mr. López Obrador, “a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us,” Mr. Trump wrote, he was temporarily holding off on the designation and stepping up “joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!”
Mr. Trump did not make clear how long he was prepared to delay the designation or what precisely the Mexican president had requested.
Mr. Trump had said in an interview posted online on Nov. 26 that he was moving ahead with the designation, citing what he said was the high number of Americans killed by cartels.
The comments, which were made in an interview with the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and posted to his personal website, represent a shift in United States policy that the Mexican foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, had told reporters a day earlier he did not believe would happen.
“I will be designating the cartels,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process.”
Mr. Ebrard said on Twitter on Friday that he appreciated Mr. Trump’s announcement, and predicted there would be good results.
Mr. Trump’s comments came a day after Attorney General William P. Barr met in Mexico City with Mr. López Obrador and high-level officials from his administration. After his meeting with Mr. Barr, Mr. López Obrador described the encounter as “good.”
“As a lawyer, he understands our constitution obligates us to adhere to the principles of cooperation for development and nonintervention in foreign affairs,” the Mexican president said on Twitter, referring to Mr. Barr. “In this way we will always be able to work together.”
Mexican officials revealed little about the bilateral meetings on Thursday.
A statement from the Mexican foreign ministry said the two sides had discussed “security priorities” for both nations and had talked about, among other issues, “cooperation in arms trafficking, money laundering, international drug flows and how to deal with transnational crime.”
Deadly violence by drug cartels in Mexico gained new attention in the United States in recent weeks after the killings of six children and their three mothers, all dual Mexican and American citizens, who were part of a fundamentalist Mormon community in the north of the country.
After that ambush, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the time had come “for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”