Veteran Syrian Diplomat Mekdad Named Foreign Minister, State Media Says

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AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al Assad appointed veteran diplomat Faisal Mekdad as foreign minister on Sunday to replace Walid Moalem, who died last week, state media reported.

Mekdad, 66, has been deputy foreign minister since 2006. He has also held a series of diplomatic posts, including that of envoy to the United Nations.

Assad also appointed Bashar al-Jaafari, currently ambassador to the UN, as deputy foreign minister.

Mekdad, like Moalem, is a strong supporter of Assad’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters in 2011, when thousands took to the streets to demand an end to the decades-old Assad family’s authoritarian rule. which then erupted into a full-scale civil war.

Moalem died last Monday at the age of 79, after years of heart problems.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif phoned Mekdad and congratulated him on his new post, highlighting Tehran’s “continued strategic cooperation” with Syria, state Iranian media said.

Mekdad is a strong proponent of strengthening ties with Iran and Russia, the two main allies who helped consolidate Assad’s regime and allowed him to regain much of the territory he once lost to profit. of the armed opposition.

The veteran diplomat has also been the country’s main interlocutor with United Nations agencies and Damascus-based foreign agencies and aided efforts to divert aid to serve cash-strapped government priorities, sources say. UN and international aid workers.

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