Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis formally opened a diplomatic office to representing his country in Jerusalem on Thursday .
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Babis said Prague’s decision to open an office in Jerusalem represented “another milestone in our cooperation and gives evidence that we see the importance of this great city.”
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“I am absolutely sure that it will further contribute to deepening and strengthening the ties between our peoples and become another proof of our true and devoted friendship – a friendship between the Czech Republic and the state of Israel,” he added.
The Czech office is on Washington Street in the city’s center. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site of the new office.
"The changes in the Middle East must be based on the acknowledgement of the reality and historic truth that Jerusalem is the spiritual center of the Jewish nation for over 3,00 years, and that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since its establishment," Ashkenazi said at the ceremony.
Ashkenazi also thanked the Czech prime minister “for leading the change in Europe toward the city of Jerusalem and the connection with the state of Israel.”
The Czech Republic joins a number of countries establishing diplomatic offices in Jerusalem in recent years. The United States and Guatemala are still the only countries to have embassies in the city.
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The Czech Republic is one of the countries that received thousands of vaccines from Israel last month, after having said in December it would open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem. Two years ago, it opened a cultural center called “The Czech House” in Jerusalem.
Babis arrived in Israel on Thursday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who established a trade bureau in Jerusalem two years ago.
They are slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening, during which they plan to discuss the possibilities for cooperation in research and development of vaccines and confronting the coronavirus pandemic. Both Babis and Orban lead right-wing, nationalist-oriented governments.
The visits by the Hungarian and Czech leaders closely follow visits last week by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. In their talks with Netanyahu the sides agreed to establish a joint center for research and production of vaccines.