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US shuts down Syrian embassy, tells diplomats to leave

Published time: March 18, 2014 18:47
Edited time: March 19, 2014 03:52

Embassy of Syria, Washington (image from wikipedia.org)

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Washington has closed the Syrian embassy and two of its consulates, and has told all Syrian diplomats that they must leave the country, after Damascus decided to call back its mission last week.

"Following the announcement that the Syrian Embassy has suspended its provision of consular services, and in consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people, we have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States," said a note from the State Department’s special envoy for Syria, Daniel Rubinstein.

As well as its mission in the US capital, Syria also operated two consulates in Troy (Michigan) and Houston.

Syria’s own decision, reported in Middle Eastern media last week, was allegedly provoked by the US, which made it increasingly difficult to obtain accreditation for new diplomats since the internal conflict broke out in 2011.

Reports also claimed that Damascus would follow the same course of action in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, two other countries that have staunchly supported the rebels alongside the US.

Neither Damascus nor Washington have implied that the withdrawal of representatives constitutes a severing of diplomatic ties.

“Despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar Assad leaves power,” said Rubinstein.

The US vacated its own embassy in Damascus more than two years ago.

Karin Leukefeld, a journalist who has recently returned from Syria, believes the situation has geopolitical implications outside of the war-torn nation.

I think it definitely has to do with the tense situation in between Washington and Moscow over the situation in Ukraine,” she told RT. “What is happening in Ukraine and what is happening in Syria is closely connected...I think it's total failure of US diplomacy on the case of Syria.”