In a move widely expected, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Tuesday the U.S. has expelled 15 Cuban diplomats over ongoing security concerns regarding the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
In a brief statement to the media, Tillerson said:
"On October 3, the Department of State informed the Government of Cuba that it was ordering the departure of 15 of its officials from its embassy in Washington, D.C. 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. This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations," Tillerson said. "On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. Until the Government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm. We continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks."
A State Department official told reporters later that the number of injured diplomatic staff has now climbed to 22. Cuban officials have seven days to remove their personnel from U.S. soil.
"Our position on assurances does not presume Cuban culpability. What it does is require the Cuban Government to be able to fulfill its treaty obligations for the safety, well-being, and protection of foreign diplomats in their country. And until they can give that assurance, our personnel, we have judged, are not safe and secure in the country.
We are expelling the 15 Cubans today. They are not being declared persona non grata. And we expect them to leave within seven days.'
The withdrawal of non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Havana continues, he added, and should be completed by the end of the week. He did not comment on reports that the sonic attacks that led to this move were caused by rogue elements within the Cuban government.