Mekdad takes on the role of top diplomat while the Syrian government remains largely isolated internationally.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed Faisal Mekdad as new foreign minister, replacing Walid al-Moallem who died almost one week ago, according to a statement by the presidency.

Mekdad will be replaced as deputy foreign minister by Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, who in turn, will be replaced by ambassador to Vienna Bassam al-Sabbagh, the statement said on Sunday.

Moallem, a stalwart of the al-Assad government who held his job through a decade of conflict and several reshuffles, died on Monday at the age of 79.

The government announcement did not specify the cause of his death, but his health was understood to have

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