Sweden and Cuba in diplomatic crisis
TT/The Local · 21 Mar 2007, 13:39
Published: 21 Mar 2007 13:39 GMT+01:00
The row began when Foreign Minister Carl Bildt gave a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, in which he criticized Cuba's human rights record.
Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, Cuba's delegate to the Human Rights Council, is quoted as having said that "Cuba, unlike Sweden, does not persecute migrants or carry out ethnic cleansing that only allows those whose skin and hair color fit with the racial patterns of former Viking conquerors to remain in the country".
Bildt issued a swift condemnation of Fernandez Palacios' comments on Wednesday.
"It is completely unacceptable language."
The foreign ministry called in Cuba's ambassador in Stockholm to explain the comments and apologize on his country's behalf. Some time later the foreign ministry discovered that its diplomatic post had been opened by the Cubans. This too Bildt described as entirely unacceptable.
"The Cuban ambassador is going to be called in again," he said.
"When we put forward the view that respect for human freedoms and rights were lacking in Cuba, it led to a furious outburst from the Cuban ambassador about Sweden's blood, colonialism, imperialism, Vikings and oppression and so on and so forth. We have said that this is an unacceptable use of language," said Bildt.
"We'll see if the Cubans explain themselves. We have demanded an explanation and an apology but I'm not sure I have such high expectations of this Cuban regime," he added.
Bildt conceded that the situation was now so serious that it could be designated a diplomatic crisis.
"The UN has a responsibility to supervise respect for human rights and human freedoms. Both are rather restricted in Cuba and it is our duty to say so. It should not lead to the sort of hysterical attack on an entire nation such as that made by the Cubans," said Bildt.
Have the Cubans started opening Swedish diplomatic post?
"We have had one case where out diplomatic sacks were opened. That is serious. There are international conventions about this sort of thing, so we are going to take that up too," said Bildt.
Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios has accused Bildt of hypocrisy after the foreign minister failed to mention the Guantanamo base in Cuba or the American-led war in Iraq during his speech on human rights.
He also asserted that Cuba had been granted a place on the Human Rights Council, a post for which Sweden was not considered worthy. On balance, he thought it might have been better if Bildt had stayed in Stockholm.