The mystery of Syria's missing spokesman: 'He hasn't disappeared. He's just on three months' leave'

Syria has been gripped by the mystery of the missing foreign ministry spokesman. So what's the truth?

Damascus

Senior Syrian government officials said today that the recognition of the opposition coalition as the legitimate government by the US and many other countries would not change the situation on the ground.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Miqdad, said in an interview with The Independent that foreign countries were “recognising an artificial structure, a structure that will help promote the objectives of the US and European countries in Syria”. He denied that the opposition represented real political forces inside Syria.

Mr Miqdad’s assertion that the opposition coalition had been created by the US and was unrepresentative was echoed in a separate interview by the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi. In a striking parallel, he said that the US move was rather as if Syria “had recognised Liverpool Football Club as the sole representative of the British people while in fact it represented very little”.

The Syrian government is defiant as it faces growing international isolation, saying that whatever happens it was not going to lose militarily on the ground having withstood heavy pressure from inside and outside the country for almost two years. “I assure you this [move by the US] will not add anything,” said Mr Miqdad. “It is mere propaganda and psychological warfare directed against the Syrians and the Syrian government and is aimed at encouraging those armed groups that have been unable to achieve any real progress in Syria.”

This seemed a bit rich since Damascus had been echoing to the sound of distant gunfire all morning, suggesting that the armed groups had not been wholly ineffectual. But Mr Miqdad responded that in any case armed actions did not give those who carried them out legitimacy and just meant there were terrorist groups “which should have been fought against by Europe and the United States”.

This is a point repeatedly made by Syrian officials asking how come the US and Britain are against terrorists in one country, but favours them in another. What does the Syrian government think of the condemning of the powerful fundamentalist group, the Jabhat al-Nusra, as terrorists. “It is too late, too small,” said Mr Miqdad. “We believe they should have condemned all those who are carrying arms against a legitimate government. They should tell their friends to refrain from supporting terrorism in Syria.”

Why are the US and its allies so keen on getting rid of the Syrian administration? Mr Miqdad thought that there was hostility to Syria because of its support for the Palestinians against Israel and its long- term alliance with Iran.

He had a particular attitude towards the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring which he said were similar to coups d’etat. Challenged on this, he said that, while Syria respected what other countries did, “if the Egyptian army had not changed sides there would not have been that change. But we want that change to come normally and not from outside.” By far the most important ally remaining to Syria is Russia and Mr Miqdad said they “have daily conversations” with their Russian counterparts.

There was one more intriguing question. What happened to Jihad Makdissi, the foreign ministry spokesman, who was reported earlier this month to have left Damascus? Had he been fired or had he defected? Where had he disappeared to?

“He did not disappear. He is on release for three months and he’s enjoying his time, I hope.” Was he still spokesman for the foreign ministry? “For this moment, until now, he is still spokesman,” said Mr Miqdad. “We did not take any other decision.” And where is he? “It is said he is in Beirut.”

Finally and most important, how does Syria and the Syrian government get out of its present crisis? Mr Miqdad spoke of constitutional reforms already introduced, a multiparty system, the end of the leading role of the Baath party, and, if that did not work, national dialogue. The UN was having talks with some of the armed opposition.

But the booming of guns in the distance somehow suggested that events had moved beyond negotiation and compromise and the future of Syria would be decided on the battlefield.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders