Syria says U.S. closure of embassy arbitrary, illegal

The Syrian embassy in Washington has been operating without the ambassador, who left the U.S. in December 2011

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Syria's foreign ministry said Wednesday that a U.S. decision to close its Washington embassy and two consulates was illegal and arbitrary.

A statement described the decision as "an arbitrary measure," saying it was "a clear violation of the Vienna Convention" that governs diplomatic relations between nations.

It came a day after the United States announced it was closing Syria's Washington embassy and consulates in Michigan and Texas and expelling remaining diplomatic staff who were not U.S. citizens.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision was taken because "the illegitimacy of the Assad regime is so overwhelming".

"So we just felt the idea that this embassy is sitting here with representation that we could take seriously is an insult, and we closed it. It's that simple," he said.

Syria's foreign ministry said the decision was intended to undermine the country's ability to provide its citizens abroad with services.

The decision "reveals the real objectives of U.S. policy against the interests of Syrian citizens and is another step in the U.S. support for terrorism and bloodshed in Syria," the statement added.

The Syrian embassy in the U.S. capital had been operating for some time without an ambassador, who left the U.S. in December 2011, leaving only a few low level staff who had been providing limited consular services.

The measures will not affect Syria's mission to the United Nations, though Washington last month announced it would limit the movements of Syria's U.N. ambassador to a 25-mile radius around New York City.

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