Canadian diplomat in Cuba also suffered hearing loss

11 August, 2017, 00:39 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • US government personnel in Havana report

The statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of the incidents on February 17 and had launched an "exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government".

Cuban officials say they approached the matter with the "utmost seriousness", although also said the United States decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unsubstantiated".

And the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be asked to provide technical assistance.

A source familiar with the matter told ABC News on Thursday that the FBI is assisting in the ongoing federal investigation into the incidents.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert appeared to be taken off guard at a briefing with the press pool on Wednesday.

After the incidents the US retaliated by sending two Cuban diplomats, based in Washington, back to the island country.

Iran, North Korea and Russian Federation all have a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba.

In a statement, the Cuban foreign affairs ministry said it launched an investigation after it was informed of the situation by USA officials in February. "It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this situation".

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Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities, re-opening embassies in each other's capitals and establishing a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

It comes a day after the United States said its diplomats in Havana were experiencing unusual physical symptoms.

"Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources", one USA official said.

A spokesperson for the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs says the department does not have "definitive answers on the source or cause of the incidents".

"Some US government personnel who were working at our embassy in Havana, Cuba. reported some incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms. We take those incidents very seriously and there is an investigation now underway".

USA diplomats in Cuba said they suffered occasional harassment for years after the restoration of limited ties with the communist government in the 1970s, harassment reciprocated by U.S. agents against Cuban diplomats in Washington.

The incident threatens to set back relations between the two countries, which President Barack Obama took major strides to fix in 2015. Trump said he was keeping the US embassy in Havana "in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path".

It stressed that it had treated the issue "with utmost seriousness" and insisted that Cuba complies rigorously with the 1961 Vienna Convention, which applies special protections to diplomats. "Do that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours".

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