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EU warns of lawsuits if US targets European interests in Cuba

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By Alice Tidey
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo   -  

The European Union warned on Wednesday that it will "consider all options" including the launch of a World Trade Organisation lawsuit if the US sanctions European companies operating in Cuba.

It comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced earlier in the day that the country would suspend waivers it first imposed in 1996 that prevented American citizens from launching lawsuits over property seized in Cuba.

Pompeo accused the Cuban regime of having "exported its oppression to Venezuela" for years and said the island's "regime, intelligence, and security services keep (Venezuelan leader Nicolas) Maduro in power."

"This behaviour undermines the stability of countries in the Western Hemisphere, and poses a direct threat to US national security," he added.

'Strong opposition'

The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, and Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, condemned the US decision in a joint statement and reiterated the bloc's "strong opposition to the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures that are contrary to international law."

"The EU will consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests, including in relation to its WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute," they warned.

In another statement co-written with Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, they explained that "our respective laws allow any US claims to be followed by counter-claims in European and Canadian courts, so the US decision to allow suits against foreign companies can only lead to an unnecessary spiral of legal actions."