Pressure has mounted on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a first senior diplomat, his ambassador to Baghdad, defects.
Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, announced he was joining a small but growing list of officials who have defected to the opposition, as the regime battles a near 16-month-old uprising.
In exclusive statement to Al Jazeera, Nawaf al-Fares said that his decision came in the wake of what he described as horrible massacre committed against the Syrian people by the regime.
"I announced my resignation as Syrian ambassador to Iraq as I also declare my defection from the Syrian Baath party," said Fares on Wednesday. I urge all honest members of this party to follow my path because the regime has turned it [the party] to an instrument to kill people and their aspiration to freedom."
Fares also called upon the military to join the ranks of the Syrian revolution, pointing out that such a move would help defend the homeland against any foreign enemy and "not the killing of the people". He also urged all Syrians to come together and be patient in front of what he called attempts by the regime to divide them.
A veteran of Assad's rule who held senior positions under the late president Hafez al-Assad, Fares is from Deir Ezzor, the eastern city on the road to Iraq, which has been the scene of a ferocious military onslaught by Assad forces.
Mohamed Sermini, a member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group, described the ambassador's defection as the beginning. "This is just the beginning of a series of defections on the diplomatic level. We are in touch with several ambassadors," said
Fares, a Sunni who is said to have close ties to Syrian security, is the second senior diplomat to quit the embattled government. The first was Bassam Imadi, who was the Syrian ambassador to Sweden until December.