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U.S. closes embassy in Syria, cites security concerns

(JTA) — The United States closed its embassy in Syria out of security concerns, the State Department announced.

The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, and all American personnel have left the country, according to a statement issued Monday by the State Department. The staff already hadbeen reduced late last year.

The embassy in Damascus was closed because of fears that it was not sufficiently protected from armed attack following the recent surge in violence in the country, according to the statement.

On Saturday, Russia and China blocked approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have backed an Arab League peace plan for Syria. Under the resolution, Syrian President Bashar Assad would remove his troops from Syrian cities and step down, transferring power to his vice president.

"We continue to be gravely concerned by the escalation of violence in Syria caused by the regime’s blatant defiance of its commitments to the action plan it agreed to with the Arab League," the State Department statement said. "The deteriorating security situation that led to the suspension of our diplomatic operations makes clear once more the dangerous path Assad has chosen and the regime’s inability to fully control Syria. It also underscores the urgent need for the international community to act without delay to support the Arab League’s transition plan before the regime’s escalating violence puts a political solution out of reach and further jeopardizes regional peace and security."

The statement noted that Ford "will continue his work and engagement with the Syrian people as head of our Syria team in Washington."

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