Palestinians, Arab League Condemn Opening of Czech Diplomatic Office in Jerusalem

The office opening comes one month after Prague received thousands of COVID vaccine doses from Israel

Reuters
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Czech PM Andrej Babis, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana during the inauguration ceremony of a Czech diplomatic representation in Jerusalem, on Thursday.
Czech PM Andrej Babis, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana during the inauguration ceremony of a Czech diplomatic representation in Jerusalem, on Thursday.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters
Reuters

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League on Saturday condemned the Czech Republic's opening of a diplomatic office in Jerusalem, calling it a violation of international law.

Prague opened a Jerusalem branch of its Israel embassy, which is located in Tel Aviv, on Thursday. Its inauguration, attended by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, was two weeks after Israel sent several thousand COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Czech Republic.

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The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it considered Prague's move "a blatant attack on the Palestinian people and their rights, a flagrant violation of international law," and said it would harm peace prospects.

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement: "The legal status of Jerusalem will be affected by the decision of one country or another to open representative offices. East Jerusalem is an occupied land under the International law."

Speaking beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Babis said Prague was a “strategic partner” of Israel, recalling how after 1948 Czechoslovakia helped it maintain its new-found independence by sending deliveries of fighter planes. The Czech Republic is also one of Israel's strongest supporters in the European Union.

At the inauguration ceremony, Babis said it "represents another milestone in our co-operation, it gives evidence that we see the importance of this great city."

Babis speaks in Jerusalem, this week.Credit: ABIR SULTAN - AFP

Jerusalem's status is one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and only two countries have full embassies there: the United States - after former U.S. President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. policy to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel - and Guatemala.

Although the Czech Republic supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was named in an International Criminal Court pre-trial decision last month as one of the countries supporting Israel's argument that the court had no jurisdiction over war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Babis said on Thursday his country regarded the ICC’s decision to proceed with an investigation as “unfortunate,” adding: “Though we respect the independence of the court, the Czech Republic doesn’t consider Palestine to be a state, therefore the court has no jurisdiction over it.”

Last month Israel froze its short-lived "vaccine diplomacy" programme to send COVID-19 vaccines abroad to buy international goodwill after it came under legal scrutiny.

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