Syrian general Manaf Tlass Tuesday called on Syrians to unite and start building a post-President Bashar al-Assad Syria as he made his first public appearance since defecting from the regime.
Reading a prepared statement on Saudi-based pan-Arab television channel Al-Arabiya, Tlass called on Syrians to "unite... to serve a Syria after Assad... and do the impossible, to ensure the unity of Syria, and to be sure to start building a new Syria."
Tlass, who defected on July 6, said he was "reaching out to (Syrians) in these difficult times for the country, as the blood of its innocents is being shed, and whose only crime has been to call for freedom."
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He said he was speaking as "one of the sons of the Syrian Arab Army, who has rejected this regime's criminal and corrupt ways ... and who cannot accept its crimes to our country."
The defector said he did not blame those troops who have not defected, adding that "whatever mistakes made by some members of the Syrian Arab Army ... those honourable troops who have not partaken in the killing ... are the extension of the Free Syrian Army."
It is "the duty of Syrians to unite, to build a free, democratic Syria," said Tlass.
A high-profile military figure and former member of Assad's inner circle, Tlass has been mentioned as someone who could play a leading role in a transition phase in Syria should Assad go or be removed from power.