In ‘surprise’ move, Slovakia says cultural mission to open in Jerusalem
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In ‘surprise’ move, Slovakia says cultural mission to open in Jerusalem

Bratislava MP says he hopes move will be the 'first of a series of steps'; Knesset speaker hails 'tremendous diplomatic achievement'

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at a ceremony in Jerusalem marking 100 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia and 70 years since Israel's establishment on July 3, 2018. (Knesset)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at a ceremony in Jerusalem marking 100 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia and 70 years since Israel's establishment on July 3, 2018. (Knesset)

Slovakia will open a cultural center in Jerusalem, a Slovakian delegation to Israel announced Tuesday.

With the move, Slovakia will join the Czech Republic and Bulgaria as the other European Union member states to expand their diplomatic presence in the city since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“I’m full of hope that this is the first of a series of steps that will follow,” said MP Martin Glváč, who heads the Slovakian National Council’s Slovakian-Israeli friendship committee.

Glváč made the announcement at a Knesset event marking 100 years since the establishment of Czechoslovakia, later split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and 70 years since Israel was founded.

Andrej Danko, the head of the Slovakian National Council, was also in attendance, as was Milan Štěch, the president of the Czech senate.

The decision, made by Slovakian Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, came after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called on Slovakia to follow the Czech Republic in opening an honorary consulate in the city.

“This is a tremendous diplomatic achievement for Israel and a pleasant surprise for all of us,” said Edelstein, thanking the Slovaks. “I am certain that when additional delegations arrive here they will understand Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital.”

There was no indication from the Slovak foreign ministry that the move entailed any change in Bratislava’s stance on the city.

The Slovakian lawmakers did not give a timeframe for when the new facility would be opened.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein hosts delegations from Slovakia and the Czech Republic at the Knesset to mark 100 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia and 70 years since Israel’s establishment on July 3, 2018. (Knesset)

In May, the Czech Republic reopened its honorary consulate in Jerusalem, after it had been shuttered since 2016 following the death of the previous honorary consul.

The move came after Czech President Milos Zeman called for the country’s embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem. The Czech foreign ministry stressed however the decision did not mean the country was changing its stance on Jerusalem’s status, which in accordance with the EU’s position it views as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Jerusalem, June 13, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month he was told by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov the country would also open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem.

Earlier in June, Borisov met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, where he expressed his understanding of Israel’s desire for the international community to recognize the city as its capital.

He also stressed, however, that Bulgaria would not move its embassy to Jerusalem until an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is signed.

The United States in May became the first country to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The move was met with anger by Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Guatemala and Paraguay have since followed the US and moved their embassies to the city.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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