Czech leaders endorse Israeli embassy move to Jerusalem


Prague (AFP)

Czech leaders on Wednesday endorsed moving the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following a similar move by the US administration earlier this year.

In a joint statement, the Czech president, prime minister, parliament speaker and the foreign and defence ministers said the opening of a "Czech House" there in November would be "the first step in the plan to move the Czech embassy to Jerusalem".

Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for the pro-Israeli President Milos Zeman, told AFP that the Czech House would shelter government institutions including the foreign ministry's Czech Centre, the trade agency CzechTrade and tourism agency CzechTourism.

"The Czech House in Jerusalem will be ceremonially opened by Mr President during his visit to Israel in November," he said.

Zeman, a 73-year-old veteran leftwinger with anti-Muslim views, promoted the embassy move even before US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14.

Trump's move infuriated Palestinians and intensified protests on the Gaza border, with many dozens killed in clashes with Israeli forces that day.

Trump's move also ruptured generations of international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In May, the Czech Republic reopened its honorary consulate in Jerusalem following its closure in 2016 due to the death of the honorary consul.

The Czech Embassy has been in Tel Aviv since 1949, except during the interruption of diplomatic relations under the former communist regime in Prague between 1967 and 1990.