Awkward: Saudi interpreter ignores German FM's defence of Qatar, embarrassment ensues

Awkward: Saudi interpreter ignores German FM's defence of Qatar, embarrassment ensues
3 min read
04 July, 2017
A live presser by Germany's foreign minister in Jeddah caused major embarrassment for an interpreter, who stopped translating his remarks when he appeared to criticise the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.
Awkward: Saudi Arabia censored the German FM's (L) remarks during the live conference [AFP]
The live broadcast of a presser by Germany's foreign minister in Jeddah caused major embarrassment for a simultaneous interpreter, who stopped translating his remarks when he appeared to criticise the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

The awkward moment took place during a joint press conference following a meeting between Germany's Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in the Red Sea city, to discuss the Gulf crisis. 

Responding to a question, the German minister said: "We (Germany) have said it is not acceptable to blockade and isolate Qatar in this manner."

The interpreter on Saudi Arabia's Al-Ekhbaria news channel was dumbstruck and opted to repeat only the words: "We Germans" over and over for a whole minute, before mistranslating the entire segment with the words "Qatar's sovereignty should not be touched."

A later Reuters report quoted the German FM as saying he did not get the impression after his meeting that the states were calling Qatar's sovereignty into question.

He was also quoted as saying: "An agreement on ending any kind of support for terrorist or extremist organisations" would be the best solution to the Gulf crisis, after the two-hour meeting with his Saudi counterpart.

But according to an Al Jazeera report, doubts about the broadcasting of the joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart were immediately raised by media outlets claiming what Gabriel actually said could not be heard due to a “technical failure” during the broadcast.
 
The broadcast of the conference was exclusive to the Saudi news channel Al-Ekhbaria.

“It was remarkable that the translation, which was aired by Al-Ekhbaria, had a problem in the voice of the translator while the German minister answered the only question he was asked.

“The voice of the translator kept repeating one sentence more than six times until the minister has finished speaking, and then the original voice of the translator became clear in the last three words.

“In addition to the technical problems that accompanied the press conference, it was also to be noted that Al-Jubeir insisted on answering questions on behalf of his German counterpart when Gabriel was asked about Berlin’s position on the Gulf crisis. After the conclusion of Al-Jubeir’s speech, the German minister said he had nothing more to add,” Al Jazeera said.

Germany has been one of the leading critics of the anti-Qatar blockade during the ongoing crisis. The German FM is due in the UAE and Qatar on Tuesday, to hold further discussions on the crisis as calls for de-escalation continue to be made by world leaders.

On a different note, Al Jazeera said the president of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag Dr Norbert Lammert, denied remarks attributed to his deputy by a Saudi minister, attacking Qatar and endorsing the blockade. Lammert told Al Jazeera the remarks were fabricated in an e-mail.
Sympathising with Qatar has been officially criminalised in the blockading countries
The incident at the press conference has sparked sarcastic and critical reactions on social media, with many calling it a scandal, while some defended the interpreter saying she was probably afraid of recrimination in the event she conveyed the minister's remarks word-for-word.

Sympathising with Qatar has been officially criminalised in the blockading countries.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off ties with Qatar on June 5 and closed off all land, sea and air links with Doha, accusing the small Gulf emirate of supporting terrorism.

Qatar denies the charges, saying the measures target its relatively independent media and foreign policy, a response corroborated by the Saudi-led demands that include the closure of Qatar-supported Al Jazeera and the scaling down of official relations with Iran and Turkey.