Washington, Sep 29

The US is preparing to announce a major withdrawal of staff and family from the US embassy in Cuba following incidents that caused physical symptoms in Americans serving there, media reported on Thursday.

An internal memo was sent to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggesting a drawing down of personnel in Havana and that only essential personnel will be left at the embassy.

The US authorities confirmed last month that at least 21 Americans working at the US embassy in Havana suffered physical symptoms, Xinhua reported.

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 US was considering whether to close down its 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 US President in January.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the two top diplomats had a "firm and frank" discussion of US 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 US 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 US and Cuba officially resumed a diplomatic relationship in July 2015, more than five decades after they severed it.

 

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