A Syrian diplomat left the government and ruling party Wednesday, appealing to the military to stop killing its "fathers, sons and sisters" and instead direct its artillery fire toward the "criminals" of the Syrian regime.
The defection of Nawaf al-Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq, follows the defection last week of a brigadier general in protest of the killing of his fellow Sunnis. Al-Fares is the highest-ranking diplomat so far to leave the regime.
He also announced his defection from the ruling Baath party, becoming the most senior member to leave.
"To my brothers in the military, your military doctrine is to defend the homeland against external aggression and protect its borders," al-Fares said in a video statement taped in front of a Syrian opposition flag and given to the TV network Al Jazeera Arabic. "So did your fathers, sons, and sisters become the enemies now? And are they the ones who you should fight? Is that what you have learned in your military schools?"
Al-Fares said he was joining the revolution. He called the government "malicious" and "the killer of the people."
Neither the Iraqi nor Syrian government immediately commented on the news.
Al-Fares was still in Iraq on Wednesday and making his way to a "safe area," according to two members of the Syrian National Council, a main opposition group.
International envoy Kofi Annan visited Iraq on Tuesday as part of efforts to seek an end to the 16 months of violence in Syria. He also visited Iran.
Both Iran and Iraq had committed to supporting his six-point peace plan, he said, and both back the idea of a Syrian-led political transition. The United States and other nations oppose Iranian participation in the diplomacy.
"Iran is definitely part of the problem in Syria," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "It is supporting, aiding, and abetting the Assad regime materially and in many other ways, and it has shown no readiness to contribute constructively."