What can be done about the abandoned embassy next door?

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s an only-in-Washington sort of problem, but a very real quality-of-life issue for residents and local politicians. The nation’s capital is littered with abandoned and neglected diplomatic buildings — old embassies, consulates or ambassadors’ former homes.

These buildings all enjoy diplomatic status from the State Department, which means they are tax-free and the city government can’t touch them. In some cases, these neglected properties have become genuine public safety hazards and magnets for squatters.

District of Columbia City Council members complain their hands are tied as long as State protects these buildings. But the department’s options are limited as well. Aside from nagging, all they can do is threaten to revoke a building’s diplomatic status. And that’s a rare and extreme step that risks an international diplomatic incident.