U.S. orders closure of Syrian embassy, consulates

The United States says it was ‘unacceptable’ for individuals appointed by Assad to conduct diplomatic operations

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The United States on Tuesday ordered the Syrian embassy in Washington and its consulates in Texas and Michigan to suspend operations and told diplomats and staff who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents to leave the country.

“We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States,” U.S. special envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein said in a statement, according to Reuters.

It comes three years since the start of the bloody civil war in Syria that has killed more than 140,000 people.

U.S. special envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein said the order responds to a decision by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to suspend its own consular services, according to AP.

However, Rubenstein said the U.S. wants to continue diplomatic relations with Syria and maintain a relationship if Assad steps down from power.

Rubinstein said “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 al-Assad leaves power.”

The Syrian embassy in the U.S. capital had been operating for some time without an ambassador and with only a few low level staff who had been providing limited consular services.

A message on the embassy website Tuesday said: “Please Note that Embassy of Syria would not be able to proceed any consular services starting Tuesday March 18, 2014. Thank you for understanding.”

Washington also said Syrian diplomats at the embassy who were not US citizens or permanent residents were no longer allowed to work in the United States and must leave the country.

The statement did not address the issue of the Syrian mission to the United Nations based in New York.

[With AFP and Reuters]

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