LONDON -- The highest-ranking Syrian diplomat in London has abandoned his post, the British Foreign Office said Monday, the latest in a string of Syrian diplomats and military officials to defect from the embattled government of President Bashar Assad.
Charge d’affaires Khaled Ayoubi "has told us that he is no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people, and is therefore unable to continue in his position," a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement. "His departure is another blow to the Assad regime."
Ayoubi first joined the Syrian diplomatic service 11 years ago and served as the Syrian consul in Greece between 2003 and 2008.
He joins the former ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, and a high-ranking general and son of the former defense minister, Manaf Tlas, among the ranks of defected Syrian officials. Syrian diplomats in Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates also reportedly quit their posts this week.
Ayoubi had been the most senior diplomatic official left in London after Britain expelled charge d’affaires Ghassan Dalla in May over the slayings of more than 100 women, children and other civilians in the Syrian town of Houla. The United Nations has said the killings were probably the work of forces sympathetic to the government; Syria says its own investigation shows the rebels are to blame.
The British Foreign Office urged others around Assad to part ways with the government, which has been condemned for rampant human rights abuses and killings as it tries to crush an uprising that has endured nearly a year and a half.
The escalating violence has reached Aleppo, the nation's commercial hub, sending more than 200,000 people fleeing from their homes in recent days, according to the United Nations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Sunday declared that the government onslaught on Aleppo would prove to be "a nail in Assad's coffin," leading to the downfall of his government.
-- Henry Chu in London and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles