Tillerson says USA thinking about closing embassy in Cuba
19 September, 2017, 01:24 | Author: Kristen Ingram
On Friday, five Republican senators wrote Tillerson to call for both closing the Havana embassy and expelling all Cuban diplomats from the U.S.
Former US President Barack Obama reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years and the embassy resumed operations in Havana in 2015.
"It's a very serious issue regarding the harm that certain individuals have suffered", Tillerson said Sunday in a television interview with CBS News. Tillerson also confirmed the State Department has brought home some of the people affected. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, The Associated Press has reported. Some reported vibrations or loud sounds that were only audible in parts of rooms, while others heard nothing but developed symptoms. Tillerson once called the events "health attacks", but the State Department has since used the term "incidents" while emphasising the USA still doesn't know what has occurred.
Cuba has denied any involvement or responsibility, but stressed it is eager to help the USA resolve the matter. Donald Trump's administration said it had taken the measure in response to Cuba's failure to protect the USA officials under the Vienna Convention.
United States officials have told reporters they believe some kind of sonic device was used to covertly undermine the health of staff members at the mission, who began reporting sick a year ago. Canadian authorities have said Cuban officials are not suspected.
Cuban leader Raul Castro reportedly offered a face-to-face assurance to USA embassy chief Jeffrey DeLaurentis that Cuba was not involved and offered assistance investigating the source of the illnesses.
"None of this has a reasonable explanation", Fulton Armstrong, a former Central Intelligence Agency official who served in Havana before America re-opened an embassy there in 2015, told the AP.
Tillerson spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation" as world leaders and top diplomats descended on NY for annual UN General Assembly meetings. President Trump will give his first speech on the major global platform this week.
Cuba is also represented at the United Nations, but it's not expected Trump will meet with any Cuban leaders or officials during his visit.
While the culprits and their motives remain unclear, USA politicians are growing impatient with the situation. Investigators have explored the possibility of sonic waves, an electromagnetic weapon, or an advanced spying operation gone awry, USA officials briefed on the probe told the AP. Cuba denies any involvement.
The incidents have raised concerns across Havana's tight-knit diplomatic community, and at least one other country, France, has tested embassy staff for potential sonic-induced injuries.
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The position was brought up, two participants said, by White House officials in Montreal led by senior adviser Everett Eissenstat. Even if the USA remained, the Trump administration would not have had to do anything if they didn't want to.
All four of those involved in the incident were thought to be American women, and they were travelling as a party. Regional newspaper La Provence said the assailant remained at the site of the attack without trying to flee.
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