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US withdrawal of diplomats from Havana is hasty – Cuba

By Sasha Gonzalez in Cuba

CUBA has said the US decision to withdraw its diplomats from its Embassy in Havana is hasty and will affect bilateral relations.

Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations director general for US affairs Josefina Vidal said Cuba had advised the US not take hasty decision that were not based on evidence nor conclusive investigation results.

Reacting to the US decision on Friday to draw down its diplomatic staff and leave only emergency personnel in Havana over alleged sonic attacks, Vidal reaffirmed Cuba’s willingness to continue an active cooperation between the authorities of both countries to fully clarify the incidents for which purpose a more effective involvement by the US would be essential.

“We consider that the decision announced by the Department of State is hasty and that it will affect the bilateral relations specifically the cooperation in matters of mutual interest and the exchanges on different fields between both countries,”

she said.

Vidal recalled that during the meeting in Secretary Rex Tillerson at the Department of State in Washington on Tuesday, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez advised his counterpart against taking any hasty decisions which were not based on evidence and conclusive investigation.

She said Rodriguez urged Tillerson not to politicize a matter of “this nature”, and reiterated the request for effective cooperation of the US authorities to “bring to closure the ongoing investigation on the alleged incidents with US diplomats in Cuba.”

Vidal said Rodriguez underscored that the Government of Cuba had no responsibility whatsoever in the alleged incidents, and that “it seriously and strictly observes its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, with regard to the protection of the integrity of diplomatic agents accredited in the country and of their family members, without exceptions.”

Despite, the Tuesday effort to avert the worst since US President Donald Trump announced reversing the rapprochement in relations with Havana in June, the US withdrew its diplomats.

But Department of State secretary Rex Tillerson said Washington would maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, “and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

“Over the past several months, 21 US Embassy employees have suffered a variety of injuries from attacks of an unknown nature. The affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms, including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Investigators have been unable to determine who is responsible or what is causing these attacks. On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the US Embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. Until the Government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our Embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm,” said Tillerson.

“In conjunction with the ordered departure of our diplomatic personnel, the Department has issued a Travel Warning advising US citizens to avoid travel to Cuba and informing them of our decision to draw down our diplomatic staff. We have no reports that private US citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in US diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by US citizens. The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure. The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel. We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Cuba has told us it will continue to investigate these attacks and we will continue to cooperate with them in this effort. The health, safety, and well-being of our Embassy community is our greatest concern. We will continue to aggressively investigate these attacks until the matter is resolved.”

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