Overhearing a private chat between two world leaders is something of a journalist’s dream and a diplomat’s nightmare.
And that is what several journalists say they were treated to at the recent G20 summit in Cannes, when US and French presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy spoke behind closed doors about the Israeli leader Benyamin Netanyahu.
But while the doors may have been closed, the microphones used by the leaders’ translators were well and truly open.
Obama and Sarkozy’s discussion turned to France’s vote for Palestinian membership of the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO. French support will have annoyed Washington and Israel, and Obama likely wanted some sort of explanation.
Sarkozy said of Netanyahu “I can’t stand him any more. He’s a liar.”
Obama replied: “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day!”
The short but insightful exchange was overheard by a small group of journalists, including one from Reuters, but was only reported online by French website Arret Sur Images on Tuesday. The reporters, who heard the remarks through headsets, are said to have decided at the time not to disclose them immediately.