By Rebecca Shabad - 03/17/14 09:55 AM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry named Daniel Rubinstein to be the new special envoy for Syria on Monday.
Rubinstein succeeds Robert Ford, who retired late last month after serving 30 years in the Foreign Service. Ford had served as ambassador to Syria since January 2011, and helped launch Syrian peace talks.
In a statement, Kerry said Rubinstein will be an “outstanding successor” to Ford because of his deep knowledge and experience in the Middle East.
Rubinstein previously worked in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and previously served in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia.
He is fluent in Arabic, Kerry said, and he also speaks Hebrew and Portuguese.
The appointment comes as the Obama administration tries to help resolve Syria’s civil war, which has left more than 100,000 people dead since it began in early 2011.
“Special Envoy Rubinstein’s leadership and counsel will be vital as we redouble our efforts to support the moderate opposition, shore up our partners, counter the rise of extremism that threatens us all, and address the devastating humanitarian crisis and its impact on the neighboring states,” Kerry said.
Rubinstein will travel to the region later this month to begin consultations with Syrians.