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Syrian defector left because country "can no longer accommodate moderation"

February 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Former Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi broke his silence yesterday for the first time since he left Syria in December, saying that he left the country because he couldn’t find any room for moderation there. He presented himself as an “independent”.

Makdissi told Agence France Presse, “I left a battlefield, not a normal country, and I apologise to the people who trusted me for leaving without prior notice. I had wished to be able to stay on Syrian territory but there is no longer a space for moderation in the chaos and things are out of control.”

He insisted that he is not affiliated to any side of the conflict in Syria.

“I got out of the country as an independent so as not to add more pain to my country’s injury and not to be a dagger in anyone’s hands against Syria’s interests,” said Makdissi. He stressed that he does not have any secrets with which to “attract others” but said that even if he had he wouldn’t reveal them.

“The popular movement represents legitimate demands and has won the hearts of society by its principled stand, because people always stand up for the weakest in society,” he added. “However, it is yet to win the battle of minds in Syria, for many reasons.”

Makdissi left Damascus on 3 December with his destination a secret.

It was reported that the reason for his departure was pressure from those close to President Bashar Al-Assad. Sources close to the authorities claimed that he was simply on a “three-month holiday”.

He told AFP that he wants to address “sane” people, as those on the ground in Syria can no longer listen because of blood. “Like my fellow Syrians,” said Makdissi, “I want to see peaceful change based on national dialogue.” This, he insists, has to take place “away from hatred and extremism” and without foreign military intervention.

Denying that he has visited the United States or any European country, Makdissi’s refuge remains a secret. He says only that he is in a place with “some honest brothers who are willing to assist the people of Syria to overcome their ordeal without discrimination”.

A Christian from Damascus, Makdissi was in London studying for his doctoral thesis while working at the Syrian embassy when he was summoned to Syria after the outbreak of protests against the regime of President Assad in mid-March 2011.