Syria’s ambassador to Iraq has defected and joined the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
In a statement broadcast on the Arabic-language television network al-Jazeera, Nawaf Fares urged members of the military to join him, saying there is no honor in killing one’s own people.
He also said the government has used the ruling Ba’ath party as a tool to oppress the Syrian people and their aspirations to freedom and dignity.
The Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that Fares has been relieved of his duties and no longer has relations to the ministry or the embassy in Baghdad.
Fares is the highest-ranking Syrian official to flee Assad’s government since the deadly rebel uprising began 16 months ago.
In Geneva Wednesday, diplomats emerged from a private meeting of the U.N. Security Council clearly divided on the council’s next action to end the fighting between government forces and the opposition.
Envoy Kofi Annan briefed Security Council members via video link on a round of talks on Syria that he hosted earlier in the week in Damascus, Tehran, and Baghdad. He later told reporters he had advised the council to speak with one voice, rather than divided, because a unified message is more powerful.
He also said he told the Security Council there should be consequences if the Syrian government and the opposition continue to ignore resolutions calling for an end to the fighting.