Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem dies at 79

The career diplomat was a steadfast supporter of the Syrian president's bloody crackdown on the opposition.

al-monitor A funeral convoy transports the coffin of late Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to a cemetery in the capital, Damascus, on Nov. 16, 2020. Muallem, a stalwart of Bashar al-Assad's regime who held his job through a decade of conflict and several reshuffles, died on Nov. 16 at the age of 79.  Photo by LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images.

Nov 16, 2020

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, the veteran diplomat and prominent spokesman for the regime, died at the age of 79, state TV reported on Monday.

The official SANA agency said Moallem died early Monday morning and his remains would be transferred from the hospital to his burial place at al-Mezzeh cemetery. No cause of death was given, but Moallem has reportedly suffered from heart problems. In 2014, he received heart surgery in Lebanon.

In his later years, Syria’s top diplomat remained a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's iron-fist approach to suppressing the rebels seeking his overthrow, and in charting Syria's efforts to rebuild ties with Arab countries. Moallem, who also served as deputy prime minister, was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2011.

Syria’s main ally, Russia, offered its condolences on Monday, with Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov telling Russian state media that Moallem was a “reliable partner, a very knowledgeable man, diplomat and political figure.”

Moallem, who was named foreign minister in 2006, also served as Syrian ambassador to the United States from 1990-2000. Since entering the Foreign Service in 1964, Moallem held posts in Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Romania, and he played a key role in the failed peace talks with Israel in the 1990s.

The aging diplomat was last seen in public during the refugee returns conference held in Damascus last week, during which Agence France-Presse reported he seemed to have lost weight and was helped into the hall by two men.

His deputy, Faisal Mekdad, is expected to replace him as foreign minister.

This story contains reporting from Agence France-Presse.

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