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Shara, Faruk Al- (1938–)

SHARA, FARUK AL- (1938–)

Syrian political figure, born in Mharbé. Faruk al-Shara earned degrees in English literature and international law and became a Baʿth Party member. In the early 1970s, he ran the Syrian Airlines Agency in Dubai and London. In 1975 he joined the foreign ministry, where he became assistant director of the Western European desk. Between 1976 and 1979 he was Syrian ambassador to Italy. In January 1980 he was appointed foreign minister in the Qassem government. In July 1983, after the death of Iskandar Ahmed, he became interim information minister. On 11 March 1984, when the third Qassem government was formed, he was reappointed foreign minister, a post he has kept through all the succeeding governments. On 8 January 1985, at the Eighth Baʿth Regional Conference, he was elected a member of its central committee. In October 1991 he led the Syrian delegation to the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid, where he advocated the Arab cause in the face of Israeli intransigence. His performance at the conference earned him the respect of Westerners and led him to play an important part in negotiations with Israel.

Shara's intelligence and his knowledge of the issues have made him a redoubtable negotiator. In the spring of 1994 he received American Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who was in charge of restarting the Israeli-Syrian talks. That December, al-Shara visited Washington, where he held an official meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in an attempt to renew the Syrian-Israeli peace dialogue, which had been interrupted since the spring of 1996. He stated on this occasion, "Peace will doubtless pose questions for all of us, especially for the Arab world, which, after it reviews the last fifty years, may well ask itself if the Israeli-Arab conflict has only challenged Arab unity, or prevented it." Al-Shara kept his portfolio in the new government formed by Muhammad Mustafa Miro in March 2000. That June, following the death of President Hafiz al-Asad, al-Shara was elected to Baʿth Command, the highest authority of the party. In August he was by the side of the new Syrian president, Bashar al-Asad, when the American emissary Edward Walker paid a visit to Syria with the mission to restart Israeli-Syrian negotiations. That same month saw him in Egypt, where American emissary Dennis Ross was meeting with Amr Musa, the head of Egyptian diplomacy, to discuss the aftermath of the Israeli-Palestinian peace summit held in Camp David in July. On 13 December 2001, in a reshuffle of Muhammad Miro's government, he was named deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

SEE ALSO Asad, Bashar al-; Asad, Hafiz al-; Barak, Ehud; Baʿth; Camp David II Summit; Christopher, Warren; Madrid Conference; Musa, Amr Muhammad.

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