Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends an interview with Reuters at the Hrzan's Palace in Prague.
(photo credit: DAVID W. CERNY / REUTERS)
A week after Paraguay announced that it was returning its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, the Czech Republic announced it would open a “Czech House” in Jerusalem in November as a prelude to moving its embassy to the capital.
The center is expected to house a cultural center, as well as offices of the Czech Republic’s trade and tourism offices.
The decision was announced by the office of Czech President Milos Zeman, after a meeting on Wednesday with the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and speaker of the chamber of deputies of parliament.
Zeman’s office issued a statement after the meeting held “to discuss foreign policy,” saying that the officials “were informed about the content, focus and objectives of the official visit of the president of the Czech Republic to Israel in November, including the state of preparations for the opening of the Czech House in Jerusalem. It is to be the first step with the intention to relocate the embassy of the Czech Republic to Jerusalem, in accordance with international law.”
A spokesman at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said that Israel did “not yet” have a response to the planned opening of the new center.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who will have the final say on whether the embassy will move to Jerusalem, has in the past indicated that Prague will not break from the EU’s position on the issue. The EU opposed the US decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.
The Czech Republic was one of only five of the 28 EU countries that abstained on a UN resolution in December slamming the US for the move. The other four countries were Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Romania. Lithuania did not show up for the vote.
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In April, Babis announced the opening of an honorary consulate in Jerusalem
, and the possibility of opening a culture center by the end of the year. He said at the time that “this step would not violate the EU common foreign policy and the fulfillment of the respective resolutions of the UN Security Council.”
The Czech Foreign Ministry issued a statement that month saying that in 2017 the country “already expressed its position on Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel, in its 1967 borders.”
Zeman said at a gala celebration in April at the Prague Castle in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary that the appointment of an honorary consul, followed by the establishment of the Czech cultural center in the city, were the first two steps of a three-step process that he hoped would culminate in the opening of the embassy.
“There will be, I hope, three phases of removal of the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said.
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