U.S. plans major withdrawal of staff from embassy in Cuba: report

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-29 05:59:55|Editor: yan
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. is preparing to announce a major withdrawal of staff and family from the U.S. embassy in Cuba following incidents that caused physical symptoms in Americans serving there, U.S. media reported Thursday.

An internal memo was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggesting a drawing down of personnel in Havana, CBS News reported, adding that only essential personnel will be left at the embassy.

The U.S. authorities confirmed last month that at least 21 Americans working at the U.S. embassy in Havana suffered physical symptoms.

No details of the injuries have been released, but media reports said the affected Americans suffered a severe hearing loss and at least one victim suffered some "brain damage."

Earlier this month, Tillerson said the United States was considering whether to close down the U.S. embassy in Cuba following the incidents.

On Tuesday, Tillerson met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to discuss the incidents. It was the first highest-level diplomatic contact between the two countries since Donald Trump became U.S. president in January.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the two top diplomats had a "firm and frank" discussion of U.S. concern for its employees.

"The Secretary conveyed the gravity of the situation and underscored the Cuban authorities' obligations to protect Embassy staff and their families under the Vienna Convention," said Nauert.

The United States expelled two Cuban diplomats in late May over the incidents. Cuba said that it was investigating the "incidents."

"Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow the Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The United States and Cuba officially resumed a diplomatic relationship in July 2015, more than five decades after they severed it.