U.S. State Department Shuts Down Syrian Embassy, Orders Personnel to Leave Country

The U.S. government on Tuesday announced that it was suspending operations for the Syrian embassy in Washington and two consulates in Texas and Michigan. All personnel who aren’t U.S. citizens or legal residents were ordered to leave the United States.

The decision, which coincides with the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict, was announced by the newly appointed U.S. special envoy to Syria, Ambassador Daniel Rubinstein, who said in a statement that the move was made in part because the Syrians stopped offering consular services and in part out of protest at the Assad regime’s atrocities. There’s no working U.S. embassy in Damascus; the Obama administration shuttered it in 2012 to protest President Bashar Assad’s use of force to put down the uprising against his rule.

“Following the announcement that the Syrian Embassy has suspended its provision of consular services, and in consideration of the atrocities the Asad 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,” the Rubinstein statement said.

Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the closure at a university town hall event today and said that a working Syrian embassy in Washington “was an insult. So we closed it.”

Laura Rozen of The Back Channel had some background about the diplomats this change affects:

There are just two Syrian diplomats left at its embassy in Washington, a Syrian contact told Al-Monitor Tuesday, as well as 8 or 9 local employees. The Syrian diplomats in Washington do not have US residency and will have to leave, the contact said. The State Department gave them til the end of the month to depart.. Ayman Midani serves as the honorary consul general of Syria in Houston, Texas. The last Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, departed in December 2011, to become Syria’s envoy to China.