© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Babis opens a Czech diplomatic mission in Jerusalem
By Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League on Saturday condemned the opening of a diplomatic office in Jerusalem by the Czech Republic in violation of international law.
Prague opened a Jerusalem branch of its Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis attended the inauguration two weeks after Israel sent 5,000 Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Czech Republic as part of a “vaccine diplomacy” program that was later legal scrutinized and frozen.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described Prague’s move as “an obvious attack on the Palestinian people and their rights, an obvious violation of international law” and said it would hurt prospects for peace.
In a statement in Cairo, the General Secretary of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in a statement: “The legal status of Jerusalem is influenced by the decision of one country or another to open representative offices. East Jerusalem is an occupied country under international law.”
The Czech Foreign Ministry stressed that the Jerusalem office is not an embassy and that it is intended to strengthen Prague’s strategic partnership with Israel and improve services for Czech citizens there.
“The establishment of the office has no impact on the will of the Czech Republic to further develop political and economic relations with the Palestinian Authority,” it said.
Jerusalem’s status is one of the most sensitive issues in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in an internationally unrecognized move and regards all of Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinians are looking for East Jerusalem, which Israel conquered along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Middle East War in 1967, as the capital of a future independent state.
Babis called Israel a “strategic partner” and described the new office as a “milestone in our cooperation”.
Only two countries have full embassies in Jerusalem: the United States – after former US President Donald Trump broke with decades of US policy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – and Guatemala.
Although the Czech Republic officially supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was named in a pre-trial decision of the International Criminal Court last month as one of the countries supporting Israel’s argument that the court does not investigate war crimes in the EU should be Palestinian Territories.
Babis said Thursday that “the Czech Republic does not consider Palestine a state, so the court does not have jurisdiction over it.”
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