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Middle east

Confusion reigns over Syrian envoy’s apparent resignation

Video by Claire PRYDE , Louise Hannah

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-06-08

A woman claiming to be Syria’s ambassador to France announced her resignation live on FRANCE 24 on Tuesday. But in subsequent statements on other news channels, a woman saying she was Syria's envoy to Paris denied that she had resigned.

A woman claiming to be Syria’s ambassador to France announced her resignation live on FRANCE 24 on Tuesday, allegedly to protest against the "cycle of extreme violence" taking place in Syria. But shortly after the announcement, Syrian state TV and two Arabic TV channels aired angry comments from a woman who claimed that she was Syria's ambassador and denying that she had resigned.

In a phone interview with FRANCE 24 Tuesday evening, Syrian envoy Lamia Chakkour said she no longer wanted to represent Damascus in France.

"I can no longer continue to support the cycle of extreme violence against unarmed civilians,” said Chakkour. “I can no longer ignore the young men, women and children who have died.

"I have informed the president’s private secretary that it is my intention to tender my resignation to (Syrian) President Bashar al-Assad,” she said adding that she recognised “the legitimacy of the people's demands for more democracy and freedom. My resignation as Syrian ambassador to France will take effect immediately.”

Chakkour made her announcement during the daily “Debate” show in English and French on FRANCE 24’s two channels.

Chakkour was asked by the show’s host François Picard to comment on concerns that the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour, which is reportedly bracing itself for a military assault, was indeed facing a violent crackdown by the country’s armed forces.

She began what was to be her resignation address by responding: “Ladies and gentlemen … I have a short declaration to make. My duty is to make sure that the voice of the Syrian people can be understood in France, Europe and in the West.”

FRANCE 24 discusses the alleged Syrian envoy's statements

Denials on Arabic TV channels

Shortly after the announcement on FRANCE 24, Syrian state television said the country’s ambassador to France had not resigned. In an audio statement aired on Syrian state TV, a woman's voice was broadcast denying the resignation and saying she would sue FRANCE 24.

The Arabic Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera TV stations also subsequently aired audio comments from a woman claiming to be the Syrian ambassador repeating the denial.

FRANCE 24 reached Chakkour on a number provided by the press office of the Syrian embassy in Paris.

In a statement released Tuesday night, FRANCE 24 maintained that, “Ahead of Tuesday’s “Debate” show on FRANCE 24, the channel invited the Syrian ambassador to France using the email address commonly used by our channel to contact the Syrian Embassy press office. Since Ms. Lamia Chakkour’s response was favourable, we called her at the appointed time on a number that was provided to us by the embassy press office.

“At 7.20 pm (Paris time) we interviewed her live on the English channel and then on the French channel. On both occasions, and without any forewarning of what she intended to say on air, she announced live that she was resigning her position as Syrian ambassador to France. Following the broadcast, the Reuters press agency received an email from the Syrian embassy in Paris confirming what she had announced.

“It was to our enormous surprise therefore that Ms. Chakkour subsequently denied her comments on Al Arabyia, Al Jazeera as well as on Syrian state TV.

“We cannot rule out either manipulation or provocation. If this were the case, FRANCE 24 will pursue legal action against any persons or government agencies responsible.”
 
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Date created : 2011-06-07

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