Washington— The United States ordered Russia on Thursday to close its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington, in response to Russia’s order that Washington should cut its diplomatic staff in Russia.
US State Department announced that in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, it would require Moscow to close the three offices by Saturday.
“We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the US had completed the reduction.
The statement explained that with this action, both countries will remain with three consulates each. The US will also allow the Russia to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in the bilateral relations.
US is requiring the closure of Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington D.C., and a consular annex in New York City, which will be accomplished by September 2.
“United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern,” Nauert explained.
The spokesperson stated that US wants to improve the relations between the two countries, elaborating that if Russia wanted to try to address some of their concerns, they are willing to listen and keep an open mind, because the fundamental goal is to find a way to improve the relations between both countries.
For its part, Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Moscow regretted the US decision.
In a statement issued, the ministry explained that the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Lavrov expressed regret at the escalation of tension in bilateral relations, which was not initiated by Russia, and said that Moscow will carefully review the new measures announced by the US, and will inform about its reaction.
Meanwhile, Russian consul in San Francisco Sergei Petrov told RIA-Novosti news agency that his consulate will act in accordance with the decision that will be taken by the Russian leadership regarding the US decision.
“The foreign ministry will decide on the procedure of the shutdown, where people will go, and so forth,” he said.
Russia has maintained a diplomatic presence in San Francisco since 1852. It closed the facility in 1924 due to a lack of funds but reopened it in 1934 after Washington reestablished diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union.