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DAMASCUS: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, a stalwart of Bashar al-Assad's regime who held his job through a decade of conflict and several reshuffles, died Monday at the age of 79.

The veteran diplomat was hit with US and European sanctions early on in the conflict that has torn Syria apart since 2011 and was known for his tirades claiming that the war was the result of a Western plot. Muallem, who had been foreign minister since 2006, started his career in the diplomatic service in 1964. In 2012, he also became deputy prime minister.