By Prudence Arobani
In a retaliatory move, the U.S. has given Russia 48 hours to close three of its missions in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York.
The spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State, Heather Nauert, said in a statement on Thursday that the move was to achieve parity in diplomatic missions.
Moscow had asked Washington to reduce its missions officials in Russia in retaliation for the seizure of property belonging to Russians and expulsion of dozens of Russian nationals by President Barack Obama.
Obama took the decision on the eve of the end of his tenure in January in retaliation against Russia’s alleged meddling in the Nov. 8, 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia.
“We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington D.C. and a consular annex in New York City.
“ These closures will need to be accomplished by Sept. 2. With this action, both countries will remain with three consulates each.
“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 department said.
The U.S. said it hoped that having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, it could avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of the two countries’ presidents.
The department noted that the goal of both President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was improved relations between the two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern.
“The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,” the department added.
It said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson phoned his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, “to inform him that we had met their required reduction in size by their deadlines.’’
“And he also informed him of our plans to close the facilities in question.
“There was also a meeting between our acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs John Heffern, who conveyed the decisions and our response to the Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Dmitry Zhirnov,” it added.