Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, was dismissed on Tuesday for leaving the country and acting without government permission by meeting with US officials in Switzerland, state media said.
The sacked minister was a member of what President Bashar al-Assad calls the “patriotic opposition’’ political parties that consider themselves rivals to the president but have not joined the 2-1/2-year revolt against his rule.
“Jamil was dismissed because he left his centre of work without prior permission and did not follow up on his duties. Additionally, he undertook activities outside the nation without coordinating with the government,’’ said a statement posted on Syria TV.
US and Middle East officials told Reuters that Jamil met the former American Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, on Saturday in Geneva.
The two discussed the proposed “Geneva second talks that aimed to launch negotiations between Assad’s Government and the rebel movement seeking his removal.
“He saw Ford after meeting Russian officials in Moscow. The meeting was long but useless. Jamil put forward what Ford apparently regarded as unworkable proposals regarding the Geneva talks.
“He also tried unsuccessfully to win US backing to including him on the opposition side in the Geneva talks’’, the Middle East official said, asking not to be named.
Syria’s conflict began as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
The US and Russia are keen to get peace talks started but the rebels want assurances that Assad will be removed, while Assad’s government rejects any preconditions over the deal.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Tuesday that Syria would attend the planned peace talks but that it was up to Syrians to decide their political future and leadership.
State television said Moualem made the remarks during a meeting with international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus, in which he said Syrians also rejected “any form of foreign intervention.’’