AFP – WikiLeaks said Thursday it was publishing over two million emails from Syrian political figures dating back to 2006 but also covering the period of the crackdown on dissent by Syria’s regime.
“Just now… WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria files, more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies dating from August 2006 to March 2012,” said spokeswoman Sarah Harrison.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a written statement: “The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s external opponents.
“It helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.”
The news came a day after Russia denied having discussed with Washington offering exile to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
WikiLeaks’ release also comes ahead of a meeting Friday in Paris of the so-called “Friends of Syria,” which supports Assad’s ouster.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the 16 months of bloodshed in Syria has claimed more than 16,500 lives.
WikiLeaks said on its website that the files would shed light on the workings of the Syrian government but also “reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.”
It said the 2,434,899 emails came from Syrian ministries including foreign affairs, finance and presidential affairs. There are around 400,000 emails in Arabic but also 68,000 emails in Russian.
Harrison said WikiLeaks could not comment on the full contents of the release, which is being organised in collaboration with media partners in countries including Lebanon, Egypt, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
She said it would take time for all the stories to come out.
The publication comes amid continued wrangling between world powers about how the bloody conflict in Syria should be tackled.
Russia has indicated it will stay away from the Paris meeting on Friday after accusing the West of seeking to distort a deal struck last weekend for a political transition in the violence-hit nation.
Moscow’s move to shun the gathering comes after UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan stressed that a ceasefire was imperative.
Assange meanwhile is holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London as he seeks political asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two former WikiLeaks volunteers.