Veteran Syrian foreign minister Walid Moalem passes away
AMMAN (SYRIA) – Syria’s top diplomat and long-time foreign minister Walid al-Moalem passed away on Monday, the government said. He was a staunch defender of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s clamp down on peaceful protesters.
However, the reason for his death is not known yet. The 79-year old had been in poor health for years with heart problems. Veteran diplomat Faisal Mekdad, would replace him as foreign minister.
Moalem was first appointed foreign minister in 2006 and was also a deputy prime minister.
“He was known for his honourable patriotic positions,” the government said, adding he died at dawn and would be buried later on Monday in Damascus.
The veteran diplomat saw his country’s tilt further towards Iran and Russia, which have helped shore up Assad’s rule and allowed the authoritarian leader to regain most of the territory he once lost to insurgents.
“This is very sad news. I have lost a very close friend in the Arab world. He was a reliable partner, a very knowledgeable person, diplomat and politician,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister.
“I am ready to be one of Hassan Nasrallahʹs soldiers,” Moalem said in August 2006, referring to the leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
The veteran diplomat had recently attacked the Caesar Act, seen as the toughest US sanctions against Damascus, brought into force last June.