TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -A State Department official told reporters on Tuesday that the employees had seven days to leave Havana’s embassy in Washington.
The official said a list of the personnel the US wants out of the country was given to the Cuban embassy, although he added that they were not declared “persona non grata.”
“The decision was made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations.”
So far, 22 US embassy staff have fallen ill due to the mysterious sonic attack. Those affected have exhibited physical symptoms including dizziness, headache, fatigue, hearing loss, difficulty sleeping and cognitive issues.
According to US officials, the move was in no way a punishment for Havana and that the Trump administration only wanted to ensure both countries have a similar number of diplomats in their capitals.
“We continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba,” Tillerson said, adding the US “will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks.”
The decision, however, would further undermine a short-lived thaw between the two sides which was achieved under former US President Barack Obama in 2015 ending a half-century of hostility.
Cuba slams US move as 'unacceptable'
In response to the latest move, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said, “MINREX (Foreign Ministry) strongly protests and denounces this unfounded and unacceptable ... eminently political decision.”
Washington has responded “in a hasty, inappropriate and unthinking manner and without evidence on the alleged facts in which Cuba has no responsibility,” Rodriguez told reporters on Tuesday.
The US State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Cuban government must ensure that the illnesses would not continue before personnel in either embassy could resume their work.
Rodriguez said that their investigation team has not identified “perpetrators, or persons with motivation or means, nor has the presence of suspicious persons.”
He also said that Havana is not “familiarized” with equipment that might have caused the attacks and that it immediately tightened the security for US diplomats.