News ID: 199742
Published: 0156 GMT September 01, 2017

US tells Russia to close San Francisco consulate

US tells Russia to close San Francisco consulate

The United States has told Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and buildings in Washington and New York that house trade missions, the State Department said on Thursday, in retaliation for Moscow cutting the US diplomatic presence in Russia.

The announcement was the latest in tit-for-tat measures between the two countries that have helped to drive relations to a new post-Cold War low, thwarting hopes on both sides that they might improve after US President Donald Trump took office in January, Reuters reported.

Last month, Moscow ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people to match the number of Russian diplomats in the United States, after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia. The sanctions were imposed in response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the 2014 reunification of Crimea.

“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 United States had completed the reduction.

“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians,” Nauert said, the United States has required the Russian government to close its San Francisco consulate and two annexes in Washington, D.C. and New York by Sept. 2.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of the closures in a phone call on Thursday, a senior Trump administration official said.

Lavrov expressed regret about Washington’s decision during the phone call with Tillerson, his ministry said.

“Moscow will closely study the new measures announced by the Americans, after which our reaction will be conveyed,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The United States said last week that it would have to sharply scale back visa services in Russia, a move that will hit Russian business travelers, tourists and students.

The Russian consulate in San Francisco handles work from seven states in the Western United States. There are three other Russian consulates separate from the embassy in Washington. They are in New York, Seattle and Houston.

The consulate in San Francisco is the oldest and most established of Russia’s consulates in the United States, the senior Trump administration official told reporters. An official residence at the consulate will also be closed.

No Russian diplomats are being expelled, and the diplomats assigned to San Francisco can be reassigned to other posts in the United States, the official said.



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