Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi, a well-known advocate for President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has resigned and is headed for London, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.
"Makdisi was pressured by people inside the presidential palace, but not the president himself, to resign. He is now on his way to London," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that he had left with his family from Beirut international airport.
"The entourage of the president was disturbed by frequent media appearances by Makdisi and some of the statements he made," Abdel Rahman said of the diplomat, who maintains an official Twitter account.
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A native Arabic speaker and fluent in French and English, Makdisi conducted his thesis in London while working for the Syrian embassy.
The Christian native of Damascus was called back to the Syrian capital soon after an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year to assume the post of foreign ministry spokesman.
He later relocated his wife and two children to Beirut, where he would visit them on the weekends.
Makdisi had come under criticism of late by the ministry, the cabinet and by state media officials at the presidential palace, according to friends. However, he maintained his loyalty to Assad.