Czech Prime Minister opens embassy office in Jerusalem
The Czech Republic opened its embassy’s Jerusalem office on Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony attended by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
“We are keeping our promise,” said Babis, standing in the shadow of the historic YMCA building in Jerusalem’s Talbieh neighborhood. “The Czech Republic will have a full diplomatic mission here in Jerusalem. It will deal with many issues – ranging from politics, economic cooperation, consular agenda and other topics. It will have a permanent staff and will work under the direction of our embassy in Tel Aviv. ”
Babis also praised Israel’s “know-how and experience” in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Czech Foreign Ministry announced its intention to open the mission in December. The Czech Republic is the second European Union member state, after Hungary, to open a diplomatic mission in the city.
In May 2018, President Milos Zeman announced the start of a three-step process to move the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
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The first step was the appointment of an honorary consul in Jerusalem.
The second step was the opening in November 2018 of the so-called Czech House, an office space in the capital’s film library which houses companies such as CzechInvest, CzechTrade and CzechTourism. Czech diplomats hold meetings there, but the center currently has no official diplomatic status.
As president, Zeman has limited executive power and Babis has so far opposed the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, citing EU policy, which is strongly against opening the diplomatic missions in the city.
Ashkenazi called the opening “further proof of the depth and breadth of friendship we share with the Czech people, the Czech Republic and the government.”
He also thanked the Prime Minister and the Czech government for “leading the change in Europe towards the city of Jerusalem as a whole and towards the connection with the State of Israel”.
“The Middle East as a whole has experienced a paradigm shift… An era of peace needs to be started with recognition of the truth. A historical truth that the city of Jerusalem has been the beating heart of the Jewish people and its only capital for over 3,000 years.
“We see this event as a very significant step and a gesture by the Czech Republic which will further strengthen Czech-Israeli relations,” said Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who represented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In recent months, countries from different parts of the world – Malawi, the Dominican Republic, Serbia and Kosovo – have declared their intention to open embassies in Jerusalem. So far, only two embassies operate in the city: those of the United States and Guatemala.
“The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s closest allies,” Ohana said, “frequently showing strong support for Israel at the United Nations and within the European Union.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.