British diplomats stationed in Syria have left the country amid fears for their safety, according to country’s Foreign Secretary.
William Hague said in a statement that he has taken the “decision on security grounds to suspend the services of the British Embassy in Damascus and to withdraw all diplomatic staff.”
Mr. Hague said despite the violence in Syria, Britain has kept the embassy in Damascus open to “help us communicate with all parties in Syria and to provide insight into the situation on the ground”.
“We now judge that the deterioration of the security situation in Damascus puts our Embassy staff and premises at risk, and have taken the decision to withdraw staff accordingly,” he said.
Although the statement stresses that Britain will continue to work closely with other nations to coordinate diplomatic and economic pressure on the Syrian regime, the closure of the embassy will mean an end to direct diplomatic engagement with the Assad government at the heart of its power base.
It will also make life more difficult for British government to get access to first-hand information on the ground and establish dialogue with the opposition.
The move may be interpreted as a political message to both Syrian government and to Russia, but the Foreign Office says it has made the decision on security grounds.