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5 Sep, 2017 20:26

'Violation of international law’: Russia to sue over diplomatic property row, Lavrov tells Tillerson

'Violation of international law’: Russia to sue over diplomatic property row, Lavrov tells Tillerson

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that Moscow has initiated legal proceedings over the “seizure” of Moscow’s diplomatic properties in the country at the behest of the current White House administration.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said that Lavrov and Tillerson spoke by phone on Tuesday.

“When discussing international relations, Lavrov pointed out that the seizure of Russian diplomatic property on US soil was a flagrant violation of international norms,” the ministry said in a statement. “The minister drew the secretary of state's attention to the words of Vladimir Putin during the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China about Russia’s intention to use legal means to fight back against Washington’s illegal actions.”

On August 31, Russia was given 72 hours to clear out its consulate in San Francisco, and the diplomatic annexes in Washington DC and New York. Russia says that the buildings were subsequently searched, in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and that it has been denied access to them, despite their status as “inviolable” diplomatic properties.

“The American decision to deprive Russia of the use of its property is an obvious violation of Russia’s property rights,” Putin said in China earlier on Tuesday. “Let’s see how well the much-praised American legal system works in practice.”

Meanwhile, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was open to filing its lawsuit with whichever court best gave it a chance of defending its interests.

In its written motivation for the closures, the US said that it was restoring “parity” after Russia’s order to close several consulates, and cut the numbers of American diplomatic staff in July, and hoped to halt the spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions between Moscow and Washington.

In a statement given out to the media on Tuesday, the Russian diplomatic service said that it took an “extraordinary” amount of work to vacate properties at such short notice, and noted that it has received “tens” of letters of support, expressing bemusement at the US decision.