There's no row, says Johnson Smith
Foreign minister denies tension between Jamaica and US over posting of diplomat in same-sex relationship
United States Ambassador to Jamaica Nick Perry and the island's Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith raise their glasses in a toast to the 247th anniversary of America's declaration of independence at the US Embassy in Kingston on June 30. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

THE Government has denied reports of a brewing diplomatic row with the United States, but Jamaica Observer sources are adamant that all is not well in the relationship between Kingston and Washington.

In a release on Tuesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith dismissed recent media reports of the diplomatic row which has been reportedly sparked by a plan by Washington to post a diplomat involved in a same-sex marriage in Kingston.

While not responding directly to the report that the Government's refusal to grant diplomatic immunity and privileges to a same-sex married partner of the American diplomat has irked Washington, Johnson Smith said Jamaica is playing by the rules.

"In accordance with diplomatic practice and within the ambit of Jamaica's Constitution, Jamaica grants privileges and immunities to incoming diplomats, their staff, and families to either reside in or visit the country.

"All requests made to the foreign ministry are considered within this context. Members of staff from both countries continue to reside and work in each other's territory and are expected to observe the laws of their host country," said Johnson Smith as she added fuel to the speculation surrounding the possible stand-off over the same-sex couple.

Jamaican laws do not recognise same-sex couples and the spouse would not qualify for the privileges awarded to a heterosexual married couple.

In what appeared to be a back-handed response to claims that Washington has retaliated by refusing to the stay of three senior Jamaican diplomats stationed at the Jamaican embassy and consulates in America, Johnson Smith said Jamaica has always complied with procedures and set term limits for the length of stay of diplomats within the United States.

The Jamaican diplomats, including Ambassador Audrey Marks, have reportedly been told by the Americans that their five-year diplomatic visas will not be renewed when they expire shortly.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has complied with these procedures and has, in fact, conducted its customary rotation exercise. Heads of Jamaican missions in the United States whose tenure will come naturally to an end later this year are already preparing for their transition," Johnson Smith said as she sought to downplay the reported diplomatic tit-for-tat.

"The Government of Jamaica recognises the importance of maintaining the traditions and practices of diplomacy, which have long ensured a seamless relationship with the diplomatic community and supported vibrant and admirable relations with the United States for over 60 years," said Johnson Smith.

"The people-to-people relations between Jamaica and the United States have been a most successful area of cooperation, and we look forward to their continuation. There is no diplomatic row between Jamaica and the United States as we continue to enjoy strong and positive diplomatic relations," added Johnson Smith.

That point was reiterated by the US Embassy in Kingston which issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that both countries "continue to enjoy close ties based on shared values, trade, culture, tourism, and a vibrant diaspora community in the United States".

The US Embassy said that as of August 2021 diplomats from all worldwide bilateral missions to the United States are accredited for a maximum of five years.

"At the conclusion of the five-year period, in the absence of a waiver approved by the [State] Department, the diplomats are expected to end their tour with the bilateral mission and depart the United States. Ambassadors, chargés d'affaires and deputy chiefs of mission are exempt from the five-year accreditation policy," the embassy said.

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