WASHINGTON – The US announced on Monday it was closing its embassy in Syria due to the worsening security situation, further isolating Damascus over its bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.
The State Department, which warned late last month that it would close the embassy unless security concerns were addressed, said it had suspended embassy operations and withdrawn all embassy personnel including Ambassador Robert Ford.
"We, along with several other diplomatic missions, conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
Nuland said that Ford would retain his position as the US ambassador to Syria and would work together with his team from Washington.
"Together with other senior US officials, Ambassador Ford will maintain contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought," Nuland said.
The US decision to close its Damascus embassy comes after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution backed by the United States and its European and Arab allies which would have endorsed an Arab League plan calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power.
(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)