March 18, 2014 12:44 PM EDT

The newly appointed U.S. special envoy for Syria marked the civil war’s third anniversary this week by closing the country’s embassy in Washington and evicting its diplomats from the U.S. as his first order of business.

Daniel Rubinstein, who was appointed to succeed Ambassador Robert Ford in the special-envoy post by Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, said in a statement on Tuesday that representatives of the regime of President Bashar Assad were no longer welcome in Washington.

“For three years, Bashar al-Assad has refused to heed the call of the Syrian people to step aside,” Rubinstein said. “He has directed a war against his own people and created a humanitarian catastrophe in order to hold on to power and protect his narrow interests.”

The U.S. ordered that operations at the Syrian embassy in Washington stop immediately and all personnel who are not U.S. citizens or permanent citizens leave the country.

The U.S., he said, will maintain diplomatic presence with Syria “as an expression of our long-standing ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar al-Assad leaves power.”

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