Washington (CNN) –– The United States shuttered its embassy in Syria and pulled out its remaining staff Monday after the government refused to address its security concerns, the State Department said.
Officials said 17 employees, including Ambassador Robert Ford, left the country. Two employees flew out of Syria last week by commercial air, with the rest of them, including Ford, traveling by convoy Monday morning to Jordan. Most of the staff was evacuated earlier in the year. The diplomatic team already had been reduced in December.
Syria was notified about the decision to pull the staff and close the embassy after the employees were out of the country, State Department officials said.
Syria did not immediately respond on state-run news agency SANA.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country has called its ambassador home for consultations.
In October, the United States pulled Ford after he was attacked by what a U.S. official described as an "armed mob" in Damascus. About 100 pro-government protesters tried to storm a meeting, which was not in the embassy, between Ford and opposition leader Hassan Abdul Azim, trapping Ford and others for more than an hour. Later, his convoy was attacked. Ford, who has been outspoken against the Syrian government's use of violence against protesters, is seen by Syrian government supporters as an activist more than a diplomat. He returned to Syria in December.
The move does not mean the United States is breaking diplomatic ties with Damascus. Although contacts between the two governments are minimal, formal relations will remain intact. Washington did not break ties with Tripoli during the NATO campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.