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Sharaa, Farouk al- (1938–)

Sharaa, Farouk al-
(1938–)

Farouk al-Sharaa is a Syrian diplomat and foreign minister.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Al-Sharaa (also Faruq al-Shara) was born in 1938 in Dar'a, in the southern Hawran region of Syria. He received a B.A in English from Damascus University, and then worked for Syrian Air in London beginning in 1968. While there he graduated from the University of London in 1972 with a degree in international law. Back in Syria, al-Sharaa worked as the commercial director for Syrian Air from 1972–1976.

Al-Sharaa then became a Syrian diplomat, serving as Syria's ambassador to Italy from 1976–1980. In 1980, he was chosen to become minister of state for foreign affairs. His rise in the diplomatic establishment was matched with his rise in the bureaucracy of the ruling Ba'th Party, and in 1985 he was promoted to the party's central committee. In March 1984, Syrian President hafiz al-asad appointed him foreign minister, a position he held until February 2006. Al-Sharaa was one of the few old guard leftovers from his father's inner circle that Syrian president bashar al-asad retained after shakeups in the government and party after he assumed the presidency in 2000. However, Bashar took the foreign ministry portfolio away from him and gave al-Sharaa the mostly ceremonial title of vice president.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

As one of the longest-serving foreign ministers in the world, and certainly in the Middle East, al-Sharaa played an integral role in many of the major diplomatic and political developments that affected Syria in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Certainly four of the major foreign policy challenges Syria faced during that time were its decision to support the American-led military coalition that attacked Iraq during the January-March 1991 Gulf War, the Arab-Israeli peace talks that began with the Madrid peace conference of October 1991, the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon prompted by the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister rafiq hariri.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Al-Sharaa was known as an effective and, in many quarters, tough advocate of the positions of Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad, and largely was seen by the world in his role as Syrian negotiator and spokesperson regarding Arab-Israeli peace talks. One of the first instances where the world became acquainted with al-Sharaa was at the October 1991 Madrid peace conference. During the opening remarks, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir attacked Syria as being "one of the most tyrannical regimes in the world." Nonplussed, al-Sharaa changed his own opening speech at the minute, and caused a stir when, during his speech, he held up an old British "wanted" poster of Shamir and accused him of having had a hand in the September 1948 assassination of UN peace mediator Folke Bernadotte. Al-Sharaa later carried out direct talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. The two met in Washington in December 1999, and al-Sharaa later led the Syrian delegation at negotiations in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, outside Washington in January 2000.

Al-Sharaa later appeared prominently in the news after the UN decided to launch an investigation into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. In his October 2005 report to the UN Security Council, UN investigator Detlev Mehler accused al-Sharaa of lying to the UN. UN investigator Serge Brammertz later interviewed al-Sharaa in April 2006.

LEGACY

Al-Sharaa's role in Syrian government and foreign affairs is not yet over, but he will be remembered as a key member of the regime of Hafiz al-Asad and Syria's main public voice during several decades of important foreign policy challenges Syria faced.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Farouk al-Sharaa," BBC Profile (22 September 2003): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3120630.stm.

                                      Michael R. Fischbach

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Farouk al-Sharaa

Birth: 1938, Dar'a, Syria

Nationality: Syrian

Education: BA (English), Damascus University; degree in international law from the University of London, 1972

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1968: Works for Syrian Air in London
  • 1972: Commercial director for Syrian Air in Damascus
  • 1976: Syrian ambassador to Italy
  • 1980: Minister of state for foreign affairs
  • 1984: Foreign minister
  • 1985: Ba'th Party central committee
  • 1991: Represents Syria at Madrid peace conference
  • 1999: Meets Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak
  • 2000: Leads Syrian delegation in Syrian-Israeli talks in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
  • 2006: Syrian vice president

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