A girl stands in a damaged street in Ain Tarma, in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus August 21, 2014. A year passed since the chemical attacks on Eastern Ghouta of Damascus. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior State Department official says the Syrian government has been told it must immediately suspend its diplomatic and consular missions in the United States.
The order Tuesday essentially shutters the Syrian embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Troy, Mich., and Houston, Texas, and forces all personnel who are not legal U.S. residents to leave the country.
It comes three years since the start of the bloody civil war in Syria that has killed more than 140,000 people.
U.S. special envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein said the order responds to a decision by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to suspend its own consular services.
However, Rubenstein said the U.S. wants to continue diplomatic relations with Syria and maintain a relationship if Assad steps down from power.