Former Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, is on his way to the United States, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.
Diplomatic sources, who did not want to be named, told The Guardian newspaper that Makdissi, the most senior Christian official in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime, is en route – or already – in the U.S. after managing to leave Damascus, for Beirut.
On Monday, a source, who also did not want to be identified, told Reuters that Makdissi, has left Beirut to settle in London.
The former Syrian official, however, didn’t step a foot in the UK, according to British officials quoted by The Guardian. “We are not in a position to confirm his actions or whereabouts.”
Lebanon’s al-Manar Television reported Monday that Makdissi has been sacked for making statements which did not reflect official government positions.
The Syrian government also said Makdissi was sacked and that it will issue a statement about his departure, which it didn’t.
But reports of Makidissi’s house catching fire in the upscale neighborhood of Mezzah in Damascus can be indicative that he defected.
According to opposition sources quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, soon after news of Makiddisi’s defection circulated, Assad regime torched his house in vengeance.
“Assad regime has burned the house of Makdissi in Mezzah,” one source from the opposition Syrian Military Council said. Mezzah is a high-security area which has homes of ambassadors, politicians and prominent businessmen.
Assad regime burning Makdissi’s house might also influence Christian Syrians, who are still hesitant not to join the Anti-Assad uprising, fearing that Islamists might come to power.
Nicknamed as “Assad’s James Bond,” Makdissi is now being called a “traitor” by Assad regime, opposition sources told the British paper.
Meanwhile, individuals, who were close to Makdissi, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the former official has long-wanted to leave Syria but he was waiting to secure the exit of his parents to Beirut, later to London, so he can follow. They said he is expected to make a press conference soon.
Makdissi, fluent in English and a communications professional, was spokesman for Syria’s foreign ministry shortly after the March 2011 uprising against the Assad regime.
When government forces were blamed for killing 103 people, including 49 children, in Houleh near Homs last May, Makdissi dismissed what he called a “tsunami of lies.”
This is not the first time that a high-profile Syrian official departs Assad’s regime. Syria’s Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected in August.
No deal for Assad: U.N.
The West has also offered embattled Syrian President Assad to seek asylum and protection for his family if he leaves power.
However, the window of opportunity seems to be closing for him. On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hinted that he would not favor an asylum deal for Assad as a way to end the country’s civil war.
Ban was asked Wednesday about the potential for such a deal. He refrained to comment directly on the matter but told The Associated Press that the United Nations doesn't allow anyone “impunity.”
Ban says that “whoever commits (a) gross violation of human rights must be held accountable and should be brought to justice. This is a fundamental principle.”
Ban spoke on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Qatar.
Assad vowed in an interview with Russia Today last month that he would never be forced into exile and that he would “live and die in Syria.”