As his first order of business, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Syria (and not in Syria, because he did not seek to present his credentials to President Bashar al-Assad), Daniel Rubinstein, has declared all Syrian diplomats in the United States persona non grata.

The embassy in Washington and consulates in Troy (Michigan) and Houston (Texas) must be closed down within 48 hours and diplomats must leave the country.

This decision does not apply to the Syrian delegation to the United Nations, by virtue of the Headquarters Agreement. However, the ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, was notified last week that he was prohibited from driving on U.S. territory, the agreement applying only to the city of New York .

Announcing this decision in an official communiqué, the State Department said that it did not necessarily mean that it was breaking diplomatic relations with Damascus and that it will continue to pursue a dialogue with the Syrian government in international fora.