Administrative staff will have until April 30th to appropriately shutter the mission before they must depart.
The United States has ordered the immediate suspension of all operations of the Syrian Embassy, and has ordered all personnel who are not American citizens or legal residents to leave the U.S.
The order means that Syria’s embassy in Washington D.C. will effectively be closed, along with its honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan, and Houston, Texas. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Diplomats and their families will have until March 31st to get their affairs in order and depart. Administrative staff will have until April 30th to appropriately shutter the mission before they must depart.”
According to Special Envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein, the U.S. order was given after the Syrian Embassy in Washington announced that it had suspended its provision of consular services, and “in consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people.” In a statement, he said, “We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States.”
Mr. Rubenstein noted that this week marks the three- year anniversary of the Syrian revolution. “For three years,” said Mr. Rubenstein, “Bashar al-Assad has refused to heed the call of the Syrian people to step aside. He has directed a war against his own people and created a humanitarian catastrophe in order to hold on to power and protect his narrow interests.”
Asked about the closing of the embassy at a town hall meeting with university students in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to “the illegitimacy of the Assad regime,” noting the deaths of 140,000 Syrians, more than 10,000 of whom are children; the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs by the Syrian government. Mr. Kerry said, “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.”
Special Envoy Rubenstein noted that the U.S. has not severed diplomatic relations with Syria. “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 United States,” he said, “will continue to assist those seeking change in Syria, to help end the slaughter, and to resolve the crisis through negotiations – for the benefit of the Syrian people.”