Syrian envoy to Cyprus defects
Syrian charge d'affaires to Cyprus Lamia al-Hariri has defected, becoming the second diplomat to leave her post in July, Al Jazeera has learned.
Al-Hariri's defection on Tuesday comes just weeks after Nawaf Fares, the ambassador to Iraq, quit his post.
Tuesday's defection deals a harsh blow to the Syrian government as the regime battles a near 17-month-old uprising. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bassam Imadi, a former Syrian ambassador to Sweden, said that Hariri's defection is also significant because she is the niece of Farouk al-Sharaa, Syria's vice-president.
"It must be very embarrassing to the regime that one of his [Sharaa's] closest officials is defecting," he said.
Imadi added that other Syrian ambassadors, including the envoys to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belarus, had defected, but have not announced it publicly due to fears over government reprisals.
Another top defector, Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, called on Tuesday for the Syrian military to denounce what he described as crimes committed by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. "I address you...as one of the Syrian Arab Army's sons who reject the criminal behaviour of this corrupt regime. The honourable people in the military would not accept these crimes," Tlass said in a televised statement on al-Arabiya television.
Tlass, a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a son of a former defence minister, said that Syrians should work together to build a new, democratic country. It was his first public appearance since he left Syria earlier this month. His long silence raised questions about whether he had joined the anti-Assad uprising or merely fled the civil war.
Posted by: Steve White