Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
The resolution of “some cases” involving disputes between French citizens and their local sponsors was “close” at hand, French ambassador Jean-Christophe Peaucelle has told Gulf Times.
When probed about the cases of French citizens, including footballer Zahir Belounis, trainer Stephane Morello and entrepreneurs Nasser al-Awartany and Jean-Pierre Marongiu who reportedly could not leave Qatar unless they resolved their issues with their local sponsors, the ambassador said that he was “optimistic” about the outcome.
“I think we are close to a solution in at least some cases. I want to say that there is a lot of goodwill from the Qatari authorities and the French embassy to find a way out. None wants to make it a problem between us and Qatar because it is not. These are problems between some French citizens and their sponsors and employers,” he said.
The envoy said that as a French representative he could only exert assistance to his citizens without interfering into Qatar’s judicial procedures. “In France, for example, we don’t like anyone to interfere in our judicial procedures. It’s natural that we do not interfere (also),” he said.
Also, the ambassador said that the former headmaster of the Bonaparte French School of Doha (BFSD), who was prematurely sent back to France recently, was not because of his alleged “anti-Islam” attitude, but because of a conflict with another employee at the school.
The envoy downplayed the significance of such incidents.
“We have 10,000 high schools in France, where school masters are removed (or hired routinely) and (yet) nobody even talks about them,” he said.
Last September, Hafid Adnani, the then BFSD headmaster, was sent back to France following a disagreement with the financial director of the school, who accused him of lying about the degrees he had earned – and of having an “anti-Muslim attitude”.
According to French news site Mediapart, Adnani was the second French high school principal to be “fired” and asked to leave the country within the last year. In late 2012, Franck Choinard, the headmaster of the Voltaire French School, was also allegedly “forced” to leave the country.
Ambassador Peaucelle termed both these incidents as “minor” whose importance, he stressed, should not be “overestimated”.
“We have a saying in French about having a small stone in the shoe. These events are not even small stones in the shoe,” he said.
The envoy said that the schoolmaster of Voltaire was “not expelled” and added that it was a French-Qatari school where the chairman is a Qatari official. “When there is a disagreement about the management of the school, it can happen that the principal can be changed,” he said.
The Bonaparte school management is, however, different and is completely French run. “There was a conflict between the (BFSD) schoolmaster and an employee of the school. I want to say that there was no anti-Islamism in the behaviour of the schoolmaster. I really think it was a matter of revenge inside the school and nothing more. (Petty difference between two individuals and) not a matter between France and Qatar.”
The envoy said that he was in “full agreement” with the former BFSD schoolmaster and said that in the end that it was deemed better for the individual to go back to France. “He has been proposed a new job in France in the agency for French schools in foreign countries, so it was a good opportunity (for him),” he said, adding that the schoolmaster had “no problem” in taking his family out of Qatar also.
About the matter of alleged “letters of threats” that had been written against the French embassy and the subsequent arrests and reported release of suspects in the incident, the envoy said: “We fully trust the Qatari authorities to ensure the security at our embassy.”