Czech PM: We'll fortify Israel-EU ties

Contradicts EU official's call to condition upgrade on stronger Israeli commitment to peace.

topolanek peres 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
topolanek peres 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Friday, and reiterated his country's commitment to strengthening ties between Israel and the European Union. "We will work so that the voices in Europe calling to slow down or freeze the promotion of relations with Israel won't get what they're after," Topolanek told Peres. The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Topolánek's comment came a day after the EU's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, told reporters in Brussels that Israel must make clear its commitment to pursue peace negotiations with the Palestinians before ties between Jerusalem and the European Union are upgraded. "We believe that good and trustful relations with Israel are essential in order to make our voice heard," Ferrero-Waldner said. "We do not believe, however, that the time is ripe to go beyond the current level of relations." In response to the EU commissioner's statements, opposition leader Tzipi Livni sent a letter on Thursday to the heads of the EU, requesting that they permit the upgrade to go through. "I urge you not to allow the freeze of upgrading relations," the letter read. "I am deeply committed to peace between Israel and its neighbors, as are most Israelis." Livni also asked that the EU not make its ties with Israel contingent on the peace process with the Palestinians. "Ultimately strengthening ties, and not weakening them, will serve the interests of Israel, the EU and the Middle East," she said. Abe Selig contributed to this report.