Czech president wants to follow US on Jerusalem embassy move

Milos Zeman say he is ‘truly happy’ in wake of Trump’s decision, notes his past support for going through with step

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Czech President Milos Zeman at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 7, 2013. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Czech President Milos Zeman at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 7, 2013. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

The president of the Czech Republic on Thursday praised US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, saying his country may soon follow suit.

“It makes me truly happy because, as I said during my visit to Israel four years ago, I would appreciate the transfer of the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem, and had it happened, we would have been the first to do so,” said Milos Zeman. “Now we may sooner or later follow the United States. In any case, it is still better than nothing.”

“This is a step taken to proclaim clearly the self-confident policy of the United States, and this is very good,” he added.

Following Trump’s speech on Wednesday, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Czech Republic said it recognizes the pre-1967 West Jerusalem as the country’s capital. It said, however, it will only consider moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city after talks with regional partners.

Trump made no distinction between East or West Jerusalem in his declaration.

“The Czech Republic currently, before the peace between Israel and Palestine is signed, recognizes Jerusalem to be in fact the capital of Israel in the borders of the demarcation line from 1967,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, the ministry noted that “the Czech Republic together with other EU member states, following the EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, considers Jerusalem to be the future capital of both states, meaning the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine. The Ministry can start considering moving of the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only based on results of negotiations with key partners in the region and in the world.”

Trump’s decision, welcomed by Israel, has been condemned by leaders and foreign ministers across the world, who have said the city’s status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A number of Muslim leaders have warned the move may lead to violence.

However, speaking at a Foreign Ministry diplomatic conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was in contact with other countries that want to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies there.

“We are holding contacts with other countries who will also recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I have no doubt than when the US Embassy will move there, and even before that, many embassies will relocate to Jerusalem. It’s about time,” he said.

This file photo taken on January 11, 2010, shows an aerial view of Jerusalem’s Old City. (AFP Photo/AFP Files/Marina Passos)

Israeli officials said Thursday that both the Czech Republic and the Philippines were eager to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Jerusalem expects that Hungary may follow suit. Budapest on Wednesday blocked a joint EU statement that would have opposed Trump’s move, European sources told The Times of Israel.

However, some Israeli diplomats are concerned over possible momentum developing for countries to recognize only West Jerusalem, as Russia did earlier this year and the Czechs did Wednesday.

Israel has declared all of Jerusalem its undivided capital, but the international community had never recognized the move, saying the city’s status needed to be determined via final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed