Tit for tat: U.S. closes 3 Russian consular facilities in U.S.

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Christopher Sparks, September 1, 2017

The U.S. State Department on Aug. 31 said that, “in the spirit of parity,” the U.S. is closing Russian diplomatic facilities in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The closures will be completed by Sept. 2, a person identified as a senior Trump administration official said in a press release.

The closure of Russia’s San Francisco consulate leaves just three remaining in the U.S., a senior administration official said. / Getty Images

The U.S. move came after Moscow’s decision in July to reduce U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia.

Moscow’s move in July followed new sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States over Crimea and alleged election interference, which led to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

“Although we believe that Russia’s decision to limit the size of our mission was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries, I can confirm that we have implemented the decision,” the senior Trump administration official said.

“Today we informed the Russian government that in the spirit of parity, which was the principle that they invoked in insisting that we reduce the size of our mission, we will reduce – we will require the closure of the Russian consulate general in San Francisco. In addition, we will require that they close a chancery annex in Washington, D.C. and a consular annex in New York City.”

The official noted that Russia “will still maintain more diplomatic and consular annexes in the United States than we have in Russia. We’ve chosen to allow the Russian government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Aug. 31 to “inform him that we had met their required reduction in size by their deadlines,” the official said, adding the Tillerson also informed Lavrov “of our plans to close the facilities in question.”

The official said the U.S. would not be expelling any Russian diplomats, but has “informed the Russians that they may be reassigned to other diplomatic or consular posts in the United States if they choose to do so.”

As for the buildings the Russians are housed in at the three facilities, the official said they “will continue to be owned by the Russians, and it will be up to them to determine whether they wish to sell those or dispose in some other way. They just will not be authorized for diplomatic or consular activities, and they won’t have – they won’t be recognized as such. I think as least one of the facilities is leased, so I would presume they’re just going to end their lease for that facility.”

The official went on to say that Tillerson and Lavrov are likely to meet in New York “on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September.”

Christopher Sparks is a veteran journalist who has worked for metropolitan and community newspapers in New York City, Washington, D.C., upstate New York and Florida.


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