Diplomacy

Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister Visits Western Wall

Accompanied by the Israeli ambassador to his nation, the Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, The Times of Israel reported Thursday.

The Times described Petříček’s visit, accompanied by Israel’s Ambassador the Czech Republic Daniel Meron, to the holy Jewish site as an “unprecedented step,” as it “appeared to express support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem’s Old City.”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipy Hotovely expressed appreciation for the visit, writing on Twitter, “The Czech Foreign Minister made history as he became the first European minister to come to the wall accompanied by an Israeli ambassador.”

In contrast, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote that Petříček had “the obligation of non-recognition of unlawful situations, including Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem,” and by visiting the Western Wall, he had “violated this principle.” He added that he expected the Czech Republic to observe the European Union’s guidelines not to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem.

Because of the EU’s non-recognition, European officials generally only visit the Old City of Jerusalem in a private capacity, and not accompanied by Israeli officials.

Despite the pathbreaking nature of his visit to the Western Wall, in Ramallah, Petříček told the PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki that the upcoming opening of the Czech House in Jerusalem “does not have any diplomatic status and is only a cultural center.”

Petříček’s comment suggests the Czech Republic may not be inclined to move its embassy to Jerusalem after all. In September, many of the Czech Republic’s top leaders had issued a statement endorsing the move of their nation’s embassy to Jerusalem. Czech President Miloš Zeman, in particular, has advocated the embassy move.

The Czech Republic’s apparent reversal on moving its embassy to Jerusalem comes at the same time that Benjamin Weinthal reported for The Jerusalem Post that German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly called Romanian President Klaus Iohannis urging him not to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem.

[Photo: Daniel Meron / Twitter ]