Syria diplomat quits UK post in 'protest' at Assad regime

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad President Bashar al-Assad withdrew his ambassador to the UK in March

Syria's most senior UK diplomat has quit his post, the Foreign Office says.

Charge d'Affaires Khaled al-Ayoubi told British authorities he was resigning over his government's "violent and oppressive acts".

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was "one in the eye for the regime," which the government wanted to crumble as soon as possible.

The announcement came after the UN said some 200,000 people have fled intense fighting in Syria's second city Aleppo.

Mr Cameron said Mr al-Ayoubi was "basically defecting from the Syrian regime."

"We want this regime to crumble and fold as fast as possible. Look what it's doing to its own people in Aleppo. Absolutely appalling behaviour. So this is another step on the way to Syria having a proper transition."

'Revulsion and despair'

An Foreign Office spokesman said: "Mr al-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.

"His departure is another blow to the Assad regime. It illustrates the revulsion and despair the regime's actions are provoking amongst Syrians from all walks of life, inside the country and abroad.

"We urge others around Bashar al-Assad to follow Mr al-Ayoubi's example, to disassociate themselves from the crimes being committed against the Syrian people and to support a peaceful and free future for Syria."

Mr al-Ayoubi has not yet defected to the opposition and the Foreign Office said he was staying in a safe location in the UK.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall said he had been a fairly junior diplomat, only a second secretary until promoted to as acting charge d'affaires after his predecessor was expelled in May along with two others.

The Syrian government has been hit by a series of defections, including three high-ranking diplomats and a number of military commanders.

Mr Assad withdrew his ambassador in March and Mr al-Ayoubi's departure leaves five staff at the Syrian embassy.

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