Defected Syrian envoy in Qatar
Published Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated 1:00pm: Syria's defected envoy to Iraq left the country for Qatar on Thursday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Paris.
Syria's ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday defected in protest at the military crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's forces against a 16-month revolt.
Nawaf al-Fares, who was closely linked to the security establishment, is the first senior Syrian diplomat to defect.
"I announce my defection from my post as representative of the Arab Syrian Republic in Iraq and my withdrawal from the ranks of the (ruling) Baath party," Fares said in a message aired on Al Jazeera TV Wednesday and confirming earlier reports of his defection.
"I call on all free and worthy people in Syria, particularly in the military, to immediately rejoin the ranks of the revolution," he said, adding: "turn your cannons and your tanks towards the criminals in the regime who are killing the people.
Fares' defection was confirmed by Syria's foreign ministry, which said in a statement on Thursday that he had been "discharged."
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces that Nawaf Fares has been discharged and has no relation with our embassy in Baghdad, or with the foreign ministry," the statement said.
He also called on fellow Baath party members to reject the regime which he accused of using the party as "a tool to repress the people and their aspiration of freedom and dignity."
The disaffected diplomat submitted a letter to the Iraqi foreign ministry and will meet with Iraqi officials on Thursday, a diplomat said.
"They are going to discuss sending him to another country," the diplomat added.
Fares, who was appointed in 2008, is the first Syrian ambassador to Iraq since relations between the two countries improved following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The alleged defection follows that of Manaf Tlass, a senior Syrian general who was close to Assad.
Syria expert Joshua Landis described Tlass' defection as a significant moment for high-powered Sunnis in the regime.
"No longer is this uprising merely about angry young men in the countryside. It has reached to the very top. The elite Sunnis are looking for the exit door," he said.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, UPI, Reuters)