London, Asharq Al-Awsat- – Remarks by the Syrian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr. Sami al Khaymi, caused controversy, after he was reported as saying Damascus has asked Hezbollah to stop firing missiles into northern Israel.
Asharq al Awsat received a letter from the embassy’s Press Office in London claiming the story was “totally fabricated”. It added, “The Syrian embassy in London denies what the BBC website reported, following a recorded interview with the ambassador, Dr. Sami al Khaymi on his call for Hezbollah to stop firing missiles and stresses that this story is totally fabricated.”
For its part, the BBC told Asharq al Awsat that al Khaymi’s remarks were part of a recorded interview with him on Friday. Mike Gardner, Head of Media Relations and Public Affairs, BBC World Service that his organization, “has not received a complaint from the Syrian Ambassador Sami Khayami”
“If [the Syrian ambassador] did send us a complaint, of course we would, of course, treat it very seriously and investigate the matter”, he added.
As for whether they Syrian embassy was going to get in touch or follow up the BBC on this issue, Dr. Hossam Hafez, from the Syrian embassy, told Asharq al Awsat, “We have overcome this issue and events are quickly unfolding… we sent the correction to a number of media organizations and some published it… we will content ourselves with this.”
“Ambassador al Khaymi gave several interviews to BBC channels last Thursday and Friday… there was a problem with only one of them,” he added.
The Reuters news agency reported that ambassador al Khaymi objected that his remarks were taken out of context. He reportedly said, “Syria will encourage Hezbollah to stop firing missiles at Israel… if the international community puts pressure on Israel to immediately stop its aggression.”
Asharq al Awsat had heard what the BBC claims is the full interview with the Syrian ambassador, with the interview ending with a question to the Syrian diplomat, “Are you telling Hezbollah stop firing rockets?” to which the ambassador replied, “Of course.” After that, the interview ends the broadcast with, “That was the Syrian ambassador in London.”
As for the call for the international community to pressure Israel, it was made halfway through the 3-minute interview, according to the version heard by Asharq al Awsat, when the Syrian ambassador said, “It is the role of the international community is to stop it [Israel]… Syria of course will defend itself but today we have to think constructively. I think that the most important thing today is to stop the violence and to negotiate an exchange of prisoners and how to bring peace to the Middle East.”
But Mike Gardener, indicated, “I can confirm that no segment of the answer to that question was cut… the ambassador’s answer was only the word of course and the interview ended after that.”
“BBC interviews are often edited for reasons of length but we ensure that an accurate sense of what the interviewee has said is conveyed to the audience. … We believe the broadcast interview and the online quote are an accurate reflection of what he said.”, added Mr. Gardner.