Syrian Brigadier-General Manaf Tlas, who defected to Turkey on Thursday, has left Damascus and is on his way to Paris, Al-Arabiya has reported.
Tlas is the highest-ranking military officer to have defected since the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. The Brigadier-General headed a unit of the elite Republican Guard and was a member of Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. On Thursday 23 other officers abandoned the Syrian regime along with Manaf Tlas.
According to journalist Zaid Benjamin, the defected General has arrived in Paris early Friday after French intelligence, in coordination with a Free Syrian Army contingent stationed in Saraqib, in the northern province of Idlib, organized the operation.
The defection of Tlass is considered the first of its kind.
According to Al-Arabiya, members of the Syrian opposition said “they had information that Tlas was in Turkey but did not consider him a defector until he makes an announcement.”
“We think he has made it to Turkey but he has not contacted us. There is a difference between leaving Syria and joining the opposition to Assad,” Al-Arabiya quoted a Syrian opposition source as saying.
Over 100 Western and Arab nations met in Paris on Thursday in a “Friends of Syria” meeting to discuss an end to the 16-month crisis in Syria.