published: 05.10.2013, 12:15 | updated: 05.10.2013 12:18:41
Prague - The Czech Republic supports the peace process in the Middle East, Foreign Ministry said today in reaction to outrage caused by President Milos Zeman´s controversial proposal that the Czech embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"We firmly believe that through the direct peace negotiations the parties will come to an agreement on all disputable issues, including security, borders, Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem," the ministry said.
At the Days of Israel in Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia, on September 30, Zeman said he would try to persuade the new Czech prime minister and foreign minister to consider the moving of the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
An interim government is now ruling in the Czech Republic and a general election will be held in three weeks.
Saeb Erekat, member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee, said on Friday Zeman´s proposal undermines the peace process in Israel and thwarts the hitherto efforts to reach agreement.
"Both within the European Union and in its bilateral relations with both sides the Czech Republic repeatedly and consistently called for direct peace negotiations as the only possible means to address all final status issues," the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.
In accordance with the EU, Prague supports the two-state solution as the only solution possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security.
"We therefore strongly welcomed a recent resumption of the direct peace talks," the ministry said.
A crushing majority of countries have their embassies in Israel in Tel Aviv, and only a few states, for example the United States and Italy, have consulates in Jerusalem.
In August 1980, a U.N. Security Council´s resolution did not recognise the Israeli declaration of Jerusalem as an "eternal and indivisible capital" of Israel and called for local foreign embassies to be moved to Tel Aviv.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok admitted on Friday that Zeman´s proposal "may temporarily worsen Czech relations with Arab states."
Rusnok said the government has not and will not discuss such a proposal.
Hynek Kmonicek, head of the Presidential Office´s foreign department, said Zeman´s statement has been torn out of its context.
Representatives of the Czech two biggest political parties, the Social Democrats (CSSD), who are expected to win the forthcoming elections, and the Civic Democrats (ODS) voiced disagreement with Zeman´s proposal.
Jerusalem´s status continues to be one of the crucial problems of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Erekat said Zeman´s statements amount to a destruction of the peace process and the efforts taken so far to reach agreement on all questions of the final status including Jerusalem.
He added that the League of Arab States, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement should discuss Zeman´s proposals and react accordingly.
In a recent interview with the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Zeman said Palestinian refugees should not insist on returning to the Palestinian autonomous areas. According to Zeman, it would be better to send them to Saudi Arabia.
When Zeman paid a visit to Israel as Czech prime minister in 2002, he caused outrage among the Palestinians who protested against his comparing the then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler.
Zeman later tried to distance himself from the statement, claiming that Israeli journalists misinterpreted what he said.
Zeman is to start a four-day visit to Israel on Sunday. He is to meet his counterpart Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prague has pursued pro-Israeli policy for a long time.
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