Syrian ambassador defects to opposition

By Alex Veeneman on July 11, 2012

Activists protesting actions by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
(Photo courtesy of the federal government)

The Syrian Ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, has announced that he has defected to the opposition, the first senior diplomat to do so.

Fares confirmed his defection on the television network Al-Jazeera, according to a report from the BBC. Fares added that he was also leaving Syria’s Baath party, according to the BBC. “I declare that I have joined, from this moment, the ranks of the revolution of the Syrian people,” Fares said according to a report by the British newspaper The Guardian. ” Fares added for protesters to go against the regime, according to a Reuters report quoted by The Guardian.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, a former leader of the opposition Syria National Council and a member of its executive bureau Burhan Ghalioun, said that the move was welcome. “We welcome the defection of the Syrian ambassador to Iraq,” Ghalioun said according to a report from The New York Times. “We have called upon high ranking officials whether in the military or in the diplomatic service to defect from this regime and join the revolution of dignity.”

The move by Fares comes a week after a senior Army officer, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, fled the country by heading to Turkey, according to the BBC. The move also comes as the United Nations is examining whether to extend its mission in Syria, which expires Friday, according to the BBC. The New York Times reports that the UN’s Security Council has until next Friday to decide whether or not to extend the mission. The Times reports that about 17,000 people have died so far in the violence.

Fares became Syria’s Ambassador to Iraq in 2008, and was the first Ambassador in several decades because of a previous decline in relations, according to the BBC.

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