Defected Syria General Meets Turkey's FM

Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, one of the most senior defectors from Assad's rule, says he will try to help unite Syria's opposition.

Elad Benari,

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wel
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wel

Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, one of the most senior defectors from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule, met on Thursday with the foreign minister of Turkey.

Turkey's foreign ministry said, according to a report in Reuters, that Tlas had arrived in Ankara and joined Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for the meal breaking the day's fast during Ramadan. Tlas appeared briefly with Davutoglu at an official guest house, but made no statement.

Tlas was earlier quoted as saying he would try to help unite Syria's fragmented opposition inside and outside the country to agree a roadmap for a transfer of power.

Speaking in an interview with the Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat, Tlas also said he was looking for support from Saudi Arabia and other powers.

“I am discussing with ... people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside,” he said, adding, “I left (Syria) ... to try to help the best I can to unite the honorable people inside and outside Syria to set out a road map to get Syria out of this crisis.”

Tlas, a former friend of Assad's who could play a role in any transition of power, told the paper he “did not leave Syria to lead the transitional period.”

“I realize this is a difficult phase ... It's difficult for one person to bear the responsibility of such a phase,” he said. “A group (including opposition) from inside and outside Syria should cooperate to accomplish this phase.”

Tlas said it would be difficult to overthrow the president from within, saying, “The structure and system of the regime makes a coup from inside very difficult.” He added that he did not see a future for Assad in Syria.

Earlier this week, Tlas called for the Syrian military to denounce what he described as crimes committed by Assad's forces.

“I address one of the Syrian Arab Army's sons who reject the criminal behavior of this corrupt regime. The honorable people in the military would not accept these crimes," Tlas said in a televised statement on Al-Arabiya television.

Several officials in Assad’s regime defected over the past few weeks. On Wednesday, Arab media reported that the Syrian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Abd Allaltif Dabaj, has defected to the opposition.

The ambassador to the UAE joined his wife, the Syrian Ambassador to Cyprus, Lamyaa Hariri, who defected last Tuesday, both traveling to Qatar.

Nawaf Fares, who served as Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, defected earlier this month. He later warned that Assad will not hesitate to use chemical weapons against opposition forces.

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