Saudis blast Czech envoy over Zeman's anti-Muslim words - press


13.06.2014 09:10

Prague - Czech ambassador to Riyad Jiri Slavik was summoned to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday to hear a complaint about President Milos Zeman's anti-Muslim statements, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.


Prezident Miloš Zeman pokračoval 10. června v cestě po Libereckém kraji. Na Horním náměstí v Hrádku nad Nisou se setkal s občany. ČTK Petrášek Radek

Zeman, commenting on a recent attack in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, said Islamic ideology was behind similarly motivated violent attacks.

"One of the articles of the Hamas movements says: 'Kill every Jew you see.' Do we really want to pretend that this is just an extreme?" LN quotes Zeman as saying.

"Do we really want to be politically correct and say that everyone is good and only a small part of extremists and fundamentalists commit these crimes?" he added.

Saudi Arabia has launched a diplomatic offensive towards the Czech Republic over Zeman's words, LN writes.

Prague authorities fear that the rift with the most powerful Arab country may spill over into the economic sphere, it adds.

"When summoned to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Slavik heard a very resolute complaint about a variety of Zeman's anti-Muslim statements," LN quotes a senior source from the Czech diplomacy as saying.

"The latest case was Zeman's speech at the reception on the Israeli national holiday in May," he added.

"The Saudis had an exact list of what Zeman said on the issue in the past. The list had several pages. The ambassador was in a very unpleasant situation as the protest had never gone so far before," the source said.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) met representatives of the Arab League in Athens, but none of them reacted to Zeman's words.

However, there is tension between Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic now, LN writes.

"I have invited Arab ambassadors for next week and I will certainly want to speak about this with them," Zaoralek said.

Zaoralek said the religious level should be left and it should be borne in mind that the affair also had an economic dimension, LN writes.

Rich guests from the Arabian Peninsula are frequent guests in Czechs spas and the Czech Republic is negotiating on agricultural and health projects with Saudi Arabia, it adds.

Zaoralek has indicated that he is preparing a reconciliatory position, LN writes.

"As Zeman has a certain history of statements relating to Arabs and the Muslim world, we cannot claim that the latest case was a mere error," Zaoralek said.

Referring to its source from the Foreign Ministry, LN writes that Slavik was assign to stress that the critical passages from Zeman's latest speech were not directly linked with Arabs or Islam.

Zeman announced on Tuesday that he would not apologise for what he had said.

The apology was demanded by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), indignant at the statements Zeman made at the May 27 celebration of the Israeli Independence Day in Prague.

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