The Obama administration Tuesday shut down the Syrian embassy in Washington as well as its honorary consulates in Houston, Texas and Troy, Mich., ordering all personnel who are not U.S. residents to leave.
The move comes at the heels of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision to cut off consular services for Syrians living in the United States, according to the AP.
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"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 to Syria Daniel Rubenstein said in a statement.
Rubenstein added that the U.S. wants to continue diplomatic relations with Syria "as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar Assad leaves power."
"The United States 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," Rubenstein said.
In a meeting with college students at the state department Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that a functioning Syrian embassy in the United States was "an insult" in light of Assad's aggressions, the New York Times reported.
"And we closed it," Kerry said. "It's that simple."
The Obama administration's move brought denunciations from Syria as well as from its ally Russia. The Russian foreign ministry said the move had more to do with removing Assad rather than helping the Syrian people, Reuters reported.
"The aim of regime change in Damascus prevails over the task of disarming Syria of its chemical weapons and helping millions of Syrians who have suffered from the armed conflict," the Russian ministry said on its website.
The Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement that the Obama administration violated diplomatic protocols by closing the embassy.
"The United States of America committed a clear violation of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations and consular relations by resorting to an arbitrary measure," Syrian officials said, according to Reuters.
Syria announced last week that it would suspend consular services in the United States but it was not cutting diplomatic ties.
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