Friday, 20 October, 2017

United States orders 15 Cuban diplomats to leave Washington embassy over sonic 'attacks'

The Cuban national flag is seen raised over their embassy in Washington DC Tillerson kicks out 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington over mystery attacks on Havana embassy which have left 22 Americans ill
Steve Phelps | 05 October, 2017, 00:31

On Tuesday, the Trump administration continued severing diplomatic relations with Cuba when it told 15 diplomats to leave Cuba's embassy in Washington, D.C., within a week.

The State Department said Tuesday it is expelling 15 officials from Cuba's embassy in Washington in response to a series of mysterious "attacks" medically affecting nearly two dozen American diplomats, APA reports quoting CNN.

The announcement comes less than a week after the US reduced its diplomatic presence in Havana following mysterious attacks on USA personnel in Cuba. "We are maintaining diplomatic relations with Havana.", the official said. The State Department had said the embassy was halting regular visa operations for Cubans seeking to visit the United States and would offer only emergency services to US citizens.

The State Department has confirmed at least 22 cases of Americans working for the us government in Cuba suffering illness and injury following an unexplained string of "attacks" using advanced technology in and around the embassy.

"We have underscored repeatedly to the Cuban government its responsibility for the safety, wellbeing, security and protection of our diplomatic staff under the Vienna Convention in Havana", the state department official said.

"As American diplomatic personnel continue to come under attack in Havana, I commend the U.S. State Department for expelling a number of Cuban operatives from the U.S.", Rubio said.

The U.S. embassy in Havana.

United States has withdrawn more than half its staff from its embassy in Havana. The United States has praised its willingness to co-operate, but also has avoided sharing sensitive details about the investigation.

Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks.

The State Department is framing this decision as a simple balancing of the number of diplomats on each country's soil. Cuba has not commented on Tuesday's announcement.

Last week, Tillerson discussed the incident with Rodriguez, the highest-level diplomatic contact between the two former Cold War enemies since Donald Trump was sworn in as USA president in January. "Meetings may continue in the United States", an official said.

Following Trump's decisions on this issue, several voices described the U.S. State Department's measures as excessive and alerted how unsafe it would be for the normalization process of bilateral relations.

The State Department warned Americans about traveling to Cuba after the sonic attacks became an issue.

Earlier last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to discuss the incidents. When the attacks first occurred, the United States and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements.

Cuba denies involvement in the attacks on the Embassy, and the USA is not blamed for a possible attack on the Cuban government.

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the USA has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The mysterious attacks have caused diziness, headaches and hearing loss. It described actions taken by our State Department, such as the ordered departure of non-emergency US government employees and their family members from Havana, as protective measures. We need to be smart and thoughtful in responding to these attacks.

Some U.S. diplomats who were asked to leave Havana expressed their strong willingness to return in the near future.

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