Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reappointed Najah al-Attar as his vice president but made no mention of his other deputy, the veteran diplomat Faruq al-Sharaa.
Attar, 81, the only woman to reach that post, took the oath on Sunday, a day after Assad issued a decree re-appointing her as his deputy, the official SANA news agency reported.
But the decree made no mention of Sharaa, a veteran politician who headed the foreign ministry for 22 years before being appointed by Assad as one of his two vice presidents in 2006.
In fact the 75-year-old Sharaa seems to have disappeared from the political limelight since Assad replaced him in the ruling Baath Party’s leadership in July 2013, without officially sacking him.
Sharaa was the only top Syrian official to speak out against Assad’s military campaign to crush dissent and to advocate a political compromise to the country’s bloody civil war, now in its third year.
Like rebels trying to topple Assad, the veteran politician belongs to the Sunni Muslim community whereas the president comes from the minority Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
In an interview with Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar in December 2012, Sharaa said that Assad “does not hide his desire for a military solution that achieves a decisive victory”.
“No rebellion can bring an end to the battle militarily. Just as (operations) of the security forces and units of the army will not bring an end to the battle,” he said.
In the interview, he also revealed that while Assad held all the key powers in Syria, there were differences of opinion within the political elite, but not to the extent that they were “deep divisions”.
Sharaa comes from Daraa, the birthplace of the uprising that erupted in March 2011.
European diplomats have said that Sharaa found himself torn between his loyalty to the regime and the bloodshed and destruction suffered by his home town.
Following a deadly crackdown by regime forces against peaceful protesters, Syrians took up arms and the conflict exploded into an all-out war.
The conflict has killed more than 170,000 people, according to a monitoring group, a third of them civilians, while nearly half the population has been forced to flee their homes.