JAMAICA'S Ambassador Audrey Marks Sets the Record Straight

JAMAICA'S  Ambassador Audrey Marks Sets the Record Straight

Following last week's firestorm over reports of a strained relationship between Jamaica and the United States over controversial policy changes, Jamaica's Ambassador to Washington, Audrey Marks weighed in on the discussion, and have put forward a statement on the matter.

The following is the full text of Ambassador Marks' statement on the matter.

Setting the Record Straight: Ambassador Audrey Marks Responds.

Jamaica's Ambassador the the United States, Her Excellency Audrey P. MarksJamaica's Ambassador the the United States, Her Excellency Audrey P. MarksWASHINGTON DC, July 25, 2023 - During my absence from the office over the past week, on urgent personal matters, I was bombarded with queries in relation to media reports regarding a United States Government diplomatic policy request of the Jamaican Government.

Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, as well as the U.S. State Department, have already responded to the erroneous nature of a Radio Jamaica report which was subsequently picked up and carried by various news organizations and social media platforms.

Therefore, let me use this opportunity to reiterate the facts of this matter. The United States has requested that countries recognize diplomatic spouses in same-sex marriages, a condition which has been legal in the United States over the past eight (8) years.

Based on this policy, a request was received by the Jamaican Embassy [on 20th June 2023] for Jamaica to extend privileges and immunities to all spouses, irrespective of gender, of accredited personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica. 

As is customary, this request was forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the recommended response, in keeping with Jamaican laws, was made and sent in a timely manner [by 5th July 2023], to the U.S. Department of State.

Based on the foregoing, and the timeliness of the response, it is clear that the request by the United States was not ignored and contrary to reports, no “second demand ” was made.

Additionally, at no time was a request made by the U.S. Department of State to have Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States removed or to immediately leave the USA; before the end of the year; or immediately upon the expiration of her diplomatic visa.

As Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, I shall return home to Jamaica at the appropriate time in keeping with my contract or at the behest of my government.

The USA implemented a new policy in August 2019, which came into effect in August 2021, where diplomats from all worldwide bilateral missions to the USA will be accredited for a maximum of five years and are expected to depart the USA thereafter. 

This policy does not apply to the Ambassador (Chief of Mission), the Chargé d'Affaires, or the Deputy Chief of Mission. Over the past two years, we have requested a few extensions, and some were denied. 

The fact is that the USA gave two years' notice of this policy change, and many persons who were or will be affected have been here for well over five years.

Such long-term stays in the U.S. were never the intent of these work visas when they were issued, so this policy is an effort by the USA to return to the diplomatic accreditations' original intent. As a government, we agree and respect this policy position.

Let me also use this opportunity to advise that Jamaica’s leaders have not been snubbed in any way, shape, or form by the United States. 

Over the past year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith have engaged in several high-level, in-person bilateral and multilateral meetings with USA officials, including President Biden, Vice-President Harris, Secretary of State Blinken, the Secretary of Treasury Yellen, and other members of the Cabinet, leaders of the Senate, leaders in the House of Representatives, and other senior officials. These are all ongoing engagements.

As we commemorate 61 years of a strong diplomatic relationship with the USA, I recall the words of William Clay, “This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies; and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” 

In this instance, however, Minister Johnson Smith has shared with you the exact position shared by our friends at the US Embassy last week, that not only our shared interests but also our friendship as allies with the USA in the constant struggle for global peace, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law remains strong and steady.


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