Defected Syrian general holds talks in Turkey

Defected Syrian general Manaf Tlass held talks with Turkish foreign ministry officials during a surprise visit to Ankara, a Turkish diplomat told AFP on Saturday.

Tlass, whose defection last month was hailed in the West as a major blow for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, visited Ankara "at his own request" and held talks at the foreign ministry on Friday, the diplomat said.

Tlass had met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara on July 26 after visiting Saudi Arabia where he had said he was working on a plan to end the 17-month conflict in Syria.

The Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not give any information about Friday's meeting nor say whether Tlass met Davutoglu.

A general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime, Tlass is the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad's late father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad.

His defection was welcomed by the opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Council as an "enormous blow" to Assad.

But Tlass has faced criticism from Syrian rebels, who say he and his 80-year-old father, who lives in Paris, should have made their positions clear at the very start of the anti-Assad uprising in March last year.

Turkey, once a close political ally of Syria, has strongly denounced the regime's violence against its own people and is sheltering more than 45,000 Syrian refugees in camps on the border, where rebel groups made up of army defectors are also based.

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