The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League on Saturday (13 March) condemned the Czech Republic’s opening of a diplomatic office in Jerusalem as a violation of international law.
Prague opened a Jerusalem branch of its Israel embassy, which is located in Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
The inauguration was attended by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, two weeks after Israel sent 5,000 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Czech Republic under a “vaccine diplomacy” program that later came under legal scrutiny and was frozen.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called Prague’s move “a blatant attack on the Palestinian people and their rights, a flagrant violation of international law,” and said it would harm peace prospects.
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement: “The legal status of Jerusalem will be affected by the decision of one country or another to open representative offices. East Jerusalem is an occupied land under the International law.”
Jerusalem’s status is one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in a move not recognized internationally, and regards all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Underlining that the Jerusalem office was not an embassy, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it was meant to strengthen Prague’s strategic partnership with Israel and improve services for Czech citizens there.
“The establishment of the office has no impact on the will of the Czech Republic to further develop political and economic relations with the Palestinian Authority,” it said.
Babis described Israel as a “strategic partner” and hailed the new office as a “milestone in our co-operation.”
Only two countries have full embassies in Jerusalem: the United States – after former U.S. President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. policy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – and Guatemala.
The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the European Union.
Babiš said on Thursday his country regarded the ICC’s decision to proceed with an investigation as “unfortunate,” adding: “Though we respect the independence of the court, the Czech Republic doesn’t consider Palestine to be a state, therefore the court has no jurisdiction over it.”