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US closes Syrian embassy amid growing unrest

The US has reiterated its calls for the international community to act in support of the Arab League’s peace plan.

The US embassy in Damascus.
The US embassy in Damascus.
Image: AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi/PA Images

THE US HAS ANNOUNCED the closure of its embassy in Damascus today, as unrest escalates in Syria almost a year after protests against President Assad first broke out.

The State Department said in a statement issued today that the Obama administration had pulled its diplomatic personnel from the country, citing escalating violence in the capital as the main impetus behind the decision.

“The recent surge in violence, including bombings in Damascus on December 23 and January 6, has raised serious concerns that our embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack,” the statement reads.

“We, along with several other diplomatic missions, conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately.”

Protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last year broke out in Syria in mid-March. By Christmas, the UN said that at least 5,000 people had been killed in violence between protesters and Syrian security forces. The violence has escalated in recent weeks, with bomb attacks in Damascus and with security forces shelling the city of Homs.

The State Department says that Ambassador Robert Ford “remains the United States Ambassador to Syria and its people”.

Ford was temporarily pulled out of Syria in October over security concerns, but returned in mid-December after consultations with the US government.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is advising Irish citizens against all travel to Syria and says any who are in Syria currently should leave as quickly as possible.

Today, the Obama administration repeated its calls for the international community to act in support of the Arab League-brokered peace plan to end the violence in Syria. Over the weekend, Syrian allies Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution backing the Arab League plan.

More deaths as shelling continues in Syrian city of Homs >

China and Russia veto UN security council resolution on Syria >

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