DAMASCUS, June 3 (Xinhua) -- In his first public appearance after leaving hospital last March, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem appeared Tuesday in the Syrian cabinet to cast his ballot in the June 3 presidential elections, according to live coverage by the state-run Syrian TV.
Placing the Syrian flag around his shoulders and walking into hall in the cabinet building along with a number of Syrian official diplomats, al-Moallem cast his ballot in the presidential elections, which kicked off earlier on Tuesday.
The head of the Syrian diplomacy told reporters following his vote that "Whoever sees these popular crowds at the polling stations where the Syrians are determining their leadership and future, and whoever has a bit of brain and patriotic feeling, must return to the homeland to participate in building this homeland whether from the opposition abroad or those inside Syria."
"I tell everyone this homeland is ours, come and let's partake in building its future," he added.
The minister further said that "every Syrian who casts his ballot today wants the return of peace and security to Syria," noting that exiled opposition members must "return to their senses and to their homeland in order for us to rebuild Syria and achieve an inclusive national reconciliation."
Asked to respond to the rebels' threats of launching attacks to disrupt the vote, al-Moallem said "we have been steadfast for more than three years and we will stay steadfast."
Tuesday's appearance is al-Moallem's first one since he left a Beirut hospital last March, where he underwent a surgery on blocked coronary arteries.
The 73-year-old minister also headed the Syrian delegation to the Geneva II conference for negotiating a political solution to the ongoing Syrian crisis. Two rounds of the conference have ended without tangible results. A third round is yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi has also cast his ballot in the vote, the first ever multi-candidate poll in Syria's modern history.
Al-Halqi said his government is determined to continue fighting terrorism and accomplishing national reconciliation at the same time.
Syria's one-day presidential election started Tuesday, with more than 15 million eligible and registered Syrian voters expected to cast their ballots for the country's three presidential contenders, including incumbent President Bashar al- Assad.