US turned down Russia’s offer to lift diplomatic restrictions: Russian envoy

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US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A view of the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia (file photo)

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The Russian ambassador to the United States says Washington has turned down an offer by Moscow to remove the diplomatic restrictions enforced by the two countries against each other.

In an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel on Wednesday, Anatoly Antonov said that Russia’s “proposal to lift all the existing restrictions was not supported by either the Department of State or the White House,” Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

“I raised this issue during my contacts,” he added, stressing that without clearing up these problems, it would be impossible to resume normal relations between the two countries.

“It seems to me that someone here in Washington thinks that we need predictably bad relations in this sphere. Naturally, we cannot accept this point of view,” Antonov further said.

On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on Washington to engage in dialog with the Russian side to eliminate the existing restrictions.

In early October, a group of US Democratic and Republican senators called on President Joe Biden to expel up to 300 Russian diplomats from the US if Moscow did not issue more visas for Americans to represent Washington in Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in response that Moscow did not have that number of diplomats in Washington and that the proposal appeared to include diplomatic staff at Russia’s mission at the United Nations. Russian officials said if that proposal were implemented, Russia would force the closure of the US Embassy in Moscow.

Back in March, the US imposed sanctions against seven Russian officials purportedly affiliated with President Vladimir Putin, blocking their access to various US assets.

In response to the US sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats, Moscow banned the US Embassy from hiring Russian and foreign citizens.

The US Embassy, in retaliation, said it would decrease the range of the consular services that it offered.

Since early August, the US Embassy in Moscow has been running with only 120 employees, the lowest number over the past five years.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the US Embassy in Moscow is free to fill the quota of 455 diplomats by employing American nationals.

Tensions are at an all-time high between Moscow and Washington over a range of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, arms control, and cyber security.



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