The US demanded that Russia shut down three diplomatic sites on American territory by Saturday. This demarche Washington has taken against Moscow under the pretext of restoring parity in a diplomatic presence on the day of the arrival of the new Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov. The State Department announced Thursday that decisions taken by the American side were made literally an hour before landing at the Dulles International Airport of the Aeroflot liner, on which Antonov arrived in Washington.
Close Missions in Washington, New York to San Francisco
As a high-ranking representative of the US administration said at a special briefing for journalists, Washington ordered Moscow to close the consulate general in San Francisco and trade missions in Washington and New York.
At the same time, the leader of the briefing pointed out that the US does not insist that Russia send the personnel employed in these three institutions home. According to the representative of the administration, these Russian specialists can continue to work in the United States. “At the moment, we do not send any Russians.” We informed the Russians that they could be reassigned to other diplomatic or consular missions in the United States if they so wish, “the leading briefing officer added.
Fate of Russian Missions
According to the information provided by the leading briefing, those missions that are to be closed, which were the property of Russia, will remain so. However, Russia, according to the representative of the administration, loses the right to engage in these facilities with diplomatic or consular work.
“In terms of what will happen to the buildings, those buildings that belong to the Russians will continue to be in their ownership, and they themselves will have to decide whether they want to sell them or get rid of them in some other way,” – said the leader of the briefing. Nevertheless, she said, the Russians “simply will not have permission to conduct diplomatic or consular activities in those buildings”.
Is Revision of Decision Possible?
Answering the questions by media, she signalled that the decision to close three diplomatic objects of Russia in the US is not necessarily irreversible. “I have not said anything about how long-term it is, we certainly continue to wish to improve relations between our two countries.Our countries have areas of contradictions and concerns that the Russian side has not responded to,” the briefing leader said.
Of course, if the Russian side tries to respond to our concerns, then we would always be ready to listen to and keep openness because of ur fundamental goal – to find a way to improve relations between our countries, “the representative of the US administration said.
She also noted that the US reduced its diplomatic and technical personnel in Russia to 455 people, following the July proposals of Moscow. “I confirm that we have fulfilled this requirement,” the representative of the US administration noted. However, she refused to specify whether the United States actually reduced its diplomatic presence in the Russian territory by 755 people.
According to the leading briefing, Washington’s decisions were discussed on Thursday during a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Tillerson called Lavrov to inform him of our demand to reduce the size of his diplomatic presence in Russia to the deadline set by Moscow, he also informed him of our plans to close these facilities.” There was also a meeting between the acting Assistant Secretary of State The US for Europe and Eurasia, John Heffern, and the adviser-envoy of the Russian embassy, Dmitri Zhirnov, on which our decisions were set out, “said the representative of the administration.
The desire of the US administration to overcome the prolonged period of tension in Russian-American relations was noted on Thursday at a regular briefing for journalists and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “We want to move towards better relations, we are looking for opportunities to do this,” the White House spokeswoman said.
In addition, she noted that the decision to close three Russian diplomatic missions was approved by US President Donald Trump. “This decision was made by the president, yes,” Sanders said.
Without reference of New Ambassador
In turn, the State Department spokesman assured the media that the new demarche of the American side was not tied in time with the arrival of Antonov in Washington. “The time of today’s actions was not linked to the arrival of the ambassador,” the official spokesman for the foreign ministry said. For his part, a senior official of the White House National Security Council told media that the US administration is eagerly preparing to welcome Antonov at the forthcoming ceremony of presenting credentials to Trump.