August 26, 2012
August 26, 2012
Faruq al-Shara, the Syrian vice-president, has made his first public appearance in over a month following rumours that he had tried to defect.
A journalist with the AFP news agency on Sunday confirmed the appearance of the longtime senior official.
Shara, who was expected to meet the visiting head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy committee, Aladin Borujerdi, was last seen in public at a state funeral for top security officials who were killed in a bomb blast on July 18.
Speculation has swirled since last week over the fate of Shara, the highest-ranking Sunni Muslim official in President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite-led regime, since the opposition claimed he had tried to defect.
Assad’s regime has been rattled by several high-profile defections as the Syrian conflict has escalated, including former prime minister Riad Hijab and prominent General Manaf Tlass, one of Assad’s childhood friends.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said on Saturday that a fake email had been sent out in its name claiming that the vice president had been sacked, adding that the “information is completely wrong”.
After the opposition claims, state television on August 19 quoted a statement from Shara’s office saying that “Mr Shara has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere”.
A former minister who defected this year also said earlier this month that it was “well-known” that Shara had tried to leave the country and was under house arrest.
Syria was also forced to deny that Walid Muallem, the foreign minister, had announced on Twitter he had replaced Shara, with SANA saying this month that the information was “wrong” and that Muallem did not have a Twitter account.
Shara, 73, has served in senior posts for almost 30 years under both Assad and his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad.
Egypt’s foreign minister wants Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Egypt to meet for talks to work out how to end the Syrian crisis, Egyptian officials said on Sunday, a meeting that would include a regional ally as well as opponents of Damascus.
Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose army and air force have been fighting rebels for 17 months, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt – under new president, Mohamed Morsi – have all called for an end to Assad’s rule.
Morsi put forward the plan at an Islamic conference in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. This week, he travels to China and then to Iran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 120 developing nations.
“We are currently conducting a series of discussions to explore the possibility of holding such a meeting and the expected outcome,” Amr Roshdy, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson said, on the topic of the plans for four-way talks.
He did not say when any such meeting would take place.
Yasser Ali, the Egyptian presidential spokesperson, told reporters that setting up such a group would bring together nations which have “real influence” and described Iran as “part of the solution, not part of the problem”.
A Turkish official said Ankara welcomed the idea, a position echoed by an Iranian foreign ministry official.
Source: ( Al Jazeera )