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Czech PM, ministers back president's Jerusalem embassy pledge

Czech Republic's acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks during a news conference after talks with European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the government's headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic Thursday April 12, 2018.
AP Photo/Petr David Josek

The Czech Republic's prime minister and two senior ministers on Wednesday threw their support behind President Milos Zeman's ambition of relocating the country's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. 

In April, just weeks before the United States relocated its mission to Jerusalem, Zeman announced a three-stage plan to rejig the central European state's stance on the holy city, which ended in moving its embassy there. 

However local media had reported that Prime Minister Andrej Babis was less keen on such a move, particularly because it would involve defying the consensus European Union position on the city's status. 

Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state. 

However Babis on Wednesday added his name to a joint statement alongside the president, parliament speaker and the foreign and defense ministers, which said the opening of a "Czech House" in the city in November would be "the first step in the plan to move the Czech embassy to Jerusalem".

Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for the pro-Israeli Zeman, told AFP that the Czech House would shelter government institutions including the foreign ministry's Czech Center, the trade agency CzechTrade and tourism agency CzechTourism.

"The Czech House in Jerusalem will be ceremonially opened by Mr President during his visit to Israel in November," he said.

Michal Cizek (AFP)

Zeman, a 73-year-old veteran leftwinger with anti-Muslim views, promoted the embassy move even before US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14.

Trump's move infuriated Palestinians and intensified protests on the Gaza border, with many dozens killed in clashes with Israeli forces that day.

Trump's move also ruptured generations of international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In May, the Czech Republic reopened its honorary consulate in Jerusalem following its closure in 2016 due to the death of the honorary consul.

Israeli businessman Dan Propper, chairman of the food processing company Osem, agreed to take up the position. 

The Czech Embassy has been in Tel Aviv since 1949, except during the interruption of diplomatic relations under the former communist regime in Prague between 1967 and 1990.

A handful of countries have followed Trump's move. Paraguay incurred Israel's wrath earlier this week when it announced it was rescinding its earlier decision and returning its embassy in Israel to Tel Aviv. 

AFP contributed to this report

Comments

(1)

Just recognizing and approving historical FACT. Nobody is asking 4 more.

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