Expelling Syrian diplomats overdue, U.S. lawmakers say

March 19, 2014 at 11:40 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- A decision from the U.S. State Department to expel Syrian diplomats from the country was long overdue, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said.

The Syrian government was ordered to suspend operations at the Syrian Embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Troy, Mich., and Houston. Daniel Rubinstein, U.S. special envoy to Syria, said it was "unacceptable" to have officials appointed by the Syrian regime on U.S. soil.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement the decision was "overdue."

Tuesday marked the third anniversary of a peaceful uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which eventually led to civil war.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the committee, said suspending embassy services was the appropriate response to the ongoing conflict.

"After three years of brutality by Assad against his people, including the horrifying use of chemical weapons on civilians, it is crucial that we increase the pressure on his regime," he said in a statement. "The longer this war goes on, the more dangerous and unstable the region will become."

A U.N. commission of inquiry said Tuesday the atrocities committed by pro-government forces in Syria were appalling. Syrian officials said the report was tainted by its reliance on testimony from terrorist groups fighting alongside rebel forces.

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