U.S. orders closure of Russian consulate in San Francisco
This file photo taken on December 29, 2016 shows people walking past the Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco, California, U.S. [Photo: VCG]
The United States has ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco, the U.S. State Department said Thursday, in response to Moscow's demand that the size of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia be reduced.
The U.S. has also ordered Russia to shutter a chancery annex in Washington D.C. and a consular annex in New York by Saturday, the State Department announced, adding that the move is "in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians."
"The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. "We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries."
The tit-for-tat action came after Russian President Vladimir Putin in July ordered the U.S. to reduce the number of diplomatic personnel in Russia by 755, in response to U.S. sanctions on Russia over its alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"With this action both countries will remain with three consulates each," Nauert said. "While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship."
"The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation's desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern," she said, adding that the U.S. "is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted."
The diplomatic row came at a low point of bilateral relationship between Washington and Moscow, as the two sides hold differences on a range of issues, including the war in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, and U.S. accusations that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, a charge Russia strongly denies.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he hoped the U.S. could have good relations with Russia, which would be "good for world peace."
"I hope that we do have good relations with Russia," Trump said at a joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. "I say it loud and clear. I have been saying it for years. I think it's a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships, with Russia."
"I believe someday that will happen...I think that's very good for world peace and other things," the U.S. President added.