U.S. withdraws staff from Syrian embassy

Syrians have protested in Damascus' main square. Syrians have protested in Damascus' main square. Muzaffar Salman/AP

The State Department on Monday pulled out its remaining staff from the U.S. embassy in Syria, following reports last week that the closing was likely unless President Bashar al-Assad promised further protection for American diplomats.

"Ambassador Ford has left Damascus but he remains the United States Ambassador to Syria and its people," a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement. "As the President’s representative, he will continue his work and engagement with the Syrian people as head of our Syria team in Washington. Together with other senior U.S. officials, Ambassador Ford will maintain contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought."

Before the closing, a State Department official had told National Journal that the rapidly deteriorating security situation across Syria “demonstrates further that Assad is losing control of the country and reinforces our point that Assad has lost all legitimacy.”

Ford, had largely remained in the country during the months of violent clashes between protesters and Syria's military and security forces—despite attacks on him and the embassy itself carried out by Assad’s supporters. As journalists encountered difficulties entering Syria, Ford became a visible face and often lone voice tweeting from inside the country about the crisis. Ford was temporarily recalled to Washington in late October for consultations, as the U.S. accused Syrian state-run media of inciting violence against the diplomat.

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