Syria's ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares has defected and resigned from Syria's ruling Baath party, he confirmed in a statement to Al Jazeera Wednesday, marking the second high profile defection from the Bashar al-Assad regime in a week. .
Iraqi officials were due to meet on the defection Thursday and the possibility of sending Fares to a third country, likely Turkey, Agence-France Press reported. The Associated Press reported that Fares is already en route to Turkey.
Fares, who has served as Syria's Iraq envoy for four years, “is a member of the privileged Sunni elite in a regime dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect,” the AP report said. His defection follows that of Brig. Gen. Munaf Tlass last week. Tlass, also a Sunni, is a former Assad insider, the son of the defense minister in the regime of Bashar al-Assad's father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad.
Fares submitted a letter to Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally notifying them of his intentions, the AFP report said.
Iraq had asked Fares to leave the country, a Syrian source told Al Monitor. According to reports he had seen earlier Wednesday but could not independently confirm, Fares had defected two days ago and was currently in Kurdish, northern Iraq.
The envoy's defection, following Tlass' last week, delivers another “moral and political blow” to the Assad regime, Middle East analyst Fawaz Gergez told Al Jazeera. “The writing is not on the wall, but the signs tell me that time is not on [its] side.”
(Photo: Syria's Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares (L) confirmed his defection July 11, 2012. On September 16, 2008, he was photographed taking the oath of office to be Syria's first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R). Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem stands in the middle. REUTERS/Sana.)