Syria's Assad names new FM to replace late diplomat

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FILE - In this July 24, 2019 file photo, then Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks to reporters in Damascus, Syria. President Bashar Assad issued a decree on Sunday Nov. 22, 2020, naming Mekdad as the new foreign minister replacing Walid al-Moallem, a long time diplomat who held the post for more than a decade until he passed away last week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
FILE - In this July 24, 2019 file photo, then Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks to reporters in Damascus, Syria. President Bashar Assad issued a decree on Sunday Nov. 22, 2020, naming Mekdad as the new foreign minister replacing Walid al-Moallem, a long time diplomat who held the post for more than a decade until he passed away last week. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s President Bashar Assad named a new foreign minister on Sunday, appointing Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to replace a longtime diplomat who passed away last week after holding the post for more than a decade.

Walid al-Moallem died on Nov. 16 at the age of 79. During the past decade’s uprising against Assad, he became one of the country’s most prominent faces to the outside world.

Like his predecessor, Mekdad is a career diplomat who has been a close confidant of Assad and a harsh critic of the opposition during Syria’s nearly 10-year conflict. The war has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s population.

Mekdad has represented Syria in conferences throughout the world since becoming deputy foreign minister in 2006.

Assad also appointed Bashar Ja’afari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, to take over the role of deputy foreign minister. Bassam Sabbagh, a senior Foreign Ministry official, was named to the U.N. post.

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