Damascus, Moscow criticise US over Syria embassy closure

Syria denounced as illegal today Washington`s decision to close its embassy, while Russia said the move meant the United States had renounced its role as a peace sponsor.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 19, 2014, 22:15 PM IST

Damascus: Syria denounced as illegal today Washington`s decision to close its embassy, while Russia said the move meant the United States had renounced its role as a peace sponsor.

Their remarks came as Damascus said Israeli air raids on Syrian territory earlier today had killed a soldier and wounded seven others, warning that they endangered regional security.

Meanwhile, Syrian state media said troops were advancing in the Qalamoun region near the Lebanese border after capturing the rebel stronghold Yabrud on Sunday.

Syria`s foreign ministry accused Washington of a "clear violation" of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations with its decision yesterday to close Syria`s embassy and two consulates, saying it was an "arbitrary measure."

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

The United States said it was closing Syria`s embassy in Washington and consulates in Michigan and Texas and expelling remaining Syrian diplomatic staff.

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."

Moscow also criticised the US decision, viewing it with "concern and disappointment." "By making such a unilateral move, our American partners in essence are depriving themselves of the role of co-sponsor of the process of political regulation in Syria," the foreign ministry said.

Russia accused Washington of "playing into the hands of the hard-core Syrian opposition," and said it went against a 2012 international accord on a political transition in Syria.

It also said Washington was prioritising regime change over the tasks of destroying Syria`s chemical weapons and helping the country`s people.
"Resolving these without direct cooperation with the Syrian government is impossible," the statement said. Syria`s embassy had been operating for some time without its ambassador, who left the country in December 2011.
The measures will not affect Syria`s mission to the United Nations, though Washington announced last month that it would limit the movements of Syria`s ambassador there to a 40-kilometre radius from New York City.