Connect with us

World

World News: Face of Bashar al-Assad’s government flees – diplomat

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

World News: Face of Bashar al-Assad’s government flees – diplomat | The Thaiger
  • follow us in feedly

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Syrian spokesman flees country: diplomat
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, who was the most public face of Bashar al-Assad’s government as it battled a 20-month-old uprising, has fled the country, a diplomat in the region said yesterday.

Jihad al-Makdissi, who is in his 40s, previously worked at the Syrian embassy in London and returned to Damascus a year ago to serve as spokesman for the ministry, defending the government’s crackdown on the revolt against Assad’s rule.

He had little influence in a system largely run by the security apparatus and the military. But Assad’s opponents will see the loss of such a high profile figure, if confirmed, as further evidence of a system crumbling from within.

Rebel forces have made advances in recent weeks, seizing military bases including some close to the capital Damascus. Amid talk that troops had moved chemical weapons, U.S. President Barack Obama again warned Assad against using them.

Makdissi belongs to Syria’s Christian minority, which has largely stood behind Assad. He worked with the foreign ministry for 10 years and speaks fluent English, a rarity in a state apparatus shaped by the Baath Party’s anti-Western ideology.

“He defected. All I can say is that he is out of Syria,” the diplomatic source, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

Lebanon’s al-Manar Television, citing government sources, said Makdissi was sacked for making statements that did not reflect the government’s position.

He was rarely seen in the media in recent weeks. His mobile telephone was switched off and there was no immediate comment in Syrian state media. The pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya said Makdissi had left Beirut and was on his way to London, where he was expected to remain.

“We’re aware of reports that he has defected and may be coming to the UK. We’re seeking clarification,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

Chemical weapons
Rebels have begun to advance more quickly after months of slow sieges to cut off army routes and supplies. In the past few weeks, they seized several military bases, and are now using anti-aircraft weapons to attack the military helicopters and fighter jets that had bombarded their positions with impunity.

Media reports citing European and U.S. officials said Syria’s chemical weapons had been moved and could be prepared for use in response – long a fear raised by the opposition.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. concerns about Syria’s intentions regarding the use of chemical weapons were increasing, prompting Washington to make contingency plans.

Syria said it would not use chemical weapons against its own people: “Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people,” the foreign ministry said.

Obama, who has steered clear of repeating in Syria the kind of military engagements Washington has seen in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, later repeated a warning to Assad – vaguely worded – against using chemical weapons to keep himself in power:

“The world is watching,” Obama said. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

Damascus battles
The army appears to have focused most of its energy on Damascus, where rebels have been planning to push into the capital from the surrounding suburbs.

The military has been trying to seal off the city, using heavy bombardment and air raids to try to drive rebels back. Over 56 people were killed around Damascus alone on Sunday, with 200 dead across the country.

Damascus itself has not been free of unrest. Rebel-held southern districts have been bombarded heavily, activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce clashes around the Tishreen military hospital in the northern Barzeh district and a car bomb in the southern area of Tadamon.

Neither side appears to have the upper hand in the fighting around Damascus. A previous attempt by rebels last July to hold ground in the city was crushed, but the fighters fell back into the suburbs and nearby countryside.

Clashes and tensions also remain high around Damascus International Airport and along the airport highway, which has become an on-and-off battleground that forced foreign airlines to suspend flights to Damascus since Thursday evening.

EgyptAir, which tried to resume flights yesterday, had to call back a plane headed to Damascus due to the “bad security situation” around the airport, an airline official said.

The conflict has grown increasingly bloody in recent months, as rebels began to contest Assad’s power around the capital as well as in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. More than 40,000 people have died in the conflict, with hundreds more killed each week.

The United Nations said it was withdrawing “all non-essential international staff” from Syria because of deteriorating security, and was restricting remaining staff to Damascus. It said more armoured vehicles were needed following attacks on humanitarian aid convoys sometimes caught in the crossfire.

A European Union official said the EU was pulling international staff from Damascus because of the security situation and its ambassador to Syria had ended his posting.

— Reuters

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.



Find more SE Asian News courtesy of The Thaiger.

Broke? Find employment in Southeast Asia with JobCute Thailand. Rich? Invest in real estate across Asia with FazWaz Property Group. Even book medical procedures worldwide with MyMediTravel, all powered by DB Ventures.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Singapore drops into an official recession

The Thaiger

Published

on

Singapore drops into an official recession | The Thaiger
PFILE PHOTO: Yahoo Singapore

Singapore, an early success story in Covid-19 containment, has now dropped into technical recession after an official second quarter report of negative growth. The Singaporean economy plunged 41.2% quarter-on-quarter, with the country’s trade-dependent economy battered by the Covid-19 crisis in the South East Asian region. Finance authorities are flagging that they expect Singapore’s GDP to shrink between 4 – 7% this year, as the Covid-19 outbreak, and the restrictions and limitations imposed, continues to pose severe stress on the island economy. Singapore’s economy shrank another 12.6% between April – June, compared to Q1 reporting period. The latest data has been released […]

Continue Reading

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Myanmar puts a hold on international flights until at least October

The Thaiger

Published

on

Myanmar puts a hold on international flights until at least October | The Thaiger

According to Myanmar’s National Tourism Development Central Committee vice-president, Myanmar’s airports are unlikely to re-open to international commercial flights until at least October this year. There is no guarantee, however, that even if the country opens its skies to international flights, there will be any takers other than airlines offering repatriation flights. Border closures around the world have grounded entire fleets of planes and put smaller airlines in financial peril. Domestic flights are currently operating, as in Thailand, but are restricted to Burmese citizens and foreign residents registered to stay and work in the country. Since the end of March, foreign […]

Continue Reading

World

Chinese professor freed after criticisms of president landed him in 6 day detention

The Thaiger

Published

on

Chinese professor freed after criticisms of president landed him in 6 day detention | The Thaiger

A Chinese professor who criticised President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been reportedly freed after spending 6 days in detention. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, was reportedly taken by a group of more than 20 people from his home after publishing an essay overseas that claimed the Chinese president was “destroying the structure of governance”. He allegedly blamed the coronavirus pandemic on the president’s authoritarianism and censorship. He said the lack of openness contributed to the outbreak in which Communist Party officials tried to suppress the initial news of the virus. A friend […]

Continue Reading
Follow The Thaiger by email:

Trending