Czech President Miloš Zeman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated the so-called Czech House in Jerusalem on Tuesday, The Times of Israel reported. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Zeman said that he expected to open the Czech embassy in Jerusalem on his next visit.
“Friends, let me declare the Czech House opening, and I firmly believe that my fourth visit to Israel will be the opening of the Czech embassy,” Zeman said as he cut the ribbon for the center to loud applause from the audience.
The opening of the Czech House, which is tasked with promoting tourism and trade, is seen as a “first step” towards moving the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the United States did in May. So far only Guatemala has followed the U.S. in relocating its embassy. Paraguay also moved its diplomatic mission, but then moved it back to Tel Aviv a few months later.
“Bibi, we politicians sometimes produce plenty of words, but what you see is the action, is the deed,” Zeman said. “That is why I want to express my sincerest thanks for the people, who instead of words organized this candle against the darkness, the candle of the friendship between our two nations.”
Netanyahu called the Czech leader “unsurpassed in his friendship to Israel,” adding that he was “deeply appreciative” of that friendship. Israel has “flourishing relations” with an increasing number of countries, the Prime Minister added, noting the recent breakthrough in bilateral ties with Chad, and warming relations with the Gulf states.
The opening of the Czech House was also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Foreign Minister Zipi Hotovely, Jerusalem mayor-elect Moshe Lion, and other dignitaries.
Friedman tweeted after the ceremony that he hoped the Czech Republic would follow the example set by the U.S. and move its embassy to Jerusalem.
“It was an honor and a privilege to meet with the Israeli PM and Czech Republic President Milos Zeman at today’s opening of the beautiful Czech House Jerusalem, just outside the Old City walls,” Friedman said. “Looking forward to the Czech Embassy opening here in the near future!”
In April, the Czech Republic announced the beginning of a three-stage process to move the country’s diplomatic missions from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Zeman, however, acknowledged, that as president he has limited executive power, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis previously opposed to a full-fledged relocation.
Zeman concluded the ceremony, promising, “I’ll do my best in order to realize the third step, after [the] honorary consulate and after [the] Czech House and you can guess what is to be the third step.”
[Photo: The Prime Minister of Israel / Facebook ]