Walid Muallem, Syria’s controversial Minister and stalwart of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is dead at the age of 79.
There were no details on the cause of death which was announced by the state media, but the 79-year old had for years been in poor health with heart problems.
The veteran diplomat who had been foreign minister since 2006, started his career in the diplomatic service in 1964. In 2012, a year after Syria’s deadly conflict started, he was also made deputy prime minister.
AFP reported that In press conferences, he was known for his mocking stances against the West who he accused of conspiring to start Syria’s conflict. Recall that Syria erupted into civil war nearly a decade ago after Assad in 2011 began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule.
Al-Muallem accused Washington and the West of fueling the country’s unrest and labelled armed insurgents as “terrorists” in a conflict that has led to the death of thousands and exodus of millions of refugees.
He was targeted by US sanctions as early as August 2011, less than six months after the eruption of protests demanding regime change — demonstrations that the Syrian authorities brutally repressed.
During more than half a century in the foreign service, he held posts in Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the United Kingdom, among other countries. He was appointed ambassador to Romania in 1975, five years after Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez came to power.
Muallem was Syria’s envoy in Washington throughout the 1990s and also led Damascus’ peace talks with Israel during that same period. He is also a father of three children.