WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of State provided additional details Wednesday regarding the ordered closure of the Syrian embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Michigan and Texas.
The soon-to-be-vacated Syrian diplomatic buildings and facilities may be entrusted, the State Department said Wednesday, to "a third State." If Syrian government prefers an alternative custody arrangement for its closed mission, it "may seek the Department's approval of assignment of these responsibilities to a member of its locally employed staff, who is either a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States."
Should the Syrian government not appoint a caretaker by March 31," the State Department will assume responsibility for ensuring the protection and preservation of the premises of the Syrian Mission, together with its property and archives," as provided for in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
On Tuesday, newly-appointed U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein announced that the administration has ordered Syria to close its embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan and Houston, Texas "immediately." Rubinstein cited the Syrian regime's continued atrocities against its own people and an announcement by Syria that it had suspended consular operations in the U.S. as the rationale for the ordered closure.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted that the affected diplomatic and administrative staff, which number less than 12, have a set timeline by which to depart the U.S. Syrian diplomats and accompanying families must leave by March 31, while administrative staff have until April 30 to shutter the mission. Psaki added that the departure dates set by the State Department exceeded the typical allotment of 10 days for diplomatic staff and 30 days for administrative staff.
The Syrian ambassador to the U.S. departed Washington in December 2011. The Syrian Embassy in Washington announced via its website on March 10 that, beginning March 18, it would no longer provide consular services.