Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic’s decision to open a branch of its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem has prompted a backlash from a number of Middle-Eastern capitals.
“Flagrant violation of international law”
On Thursday, the Czech Republic opened a branch of its Israel embassy, located in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem. The inauguration was attended by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who hailed the opening of the new Jerusalem branch as a “milestone in our cooperation.” The Czech Premier came to Israel to hold talks on the country’s widely-praised vaccination campaign, and comes two weeks after Israel offered 5,000 doses of the Moderna anti-COVID vaccine to hard-hit Czech Republic.
On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League condemned the opening of a diplomatic office in the Holy City, described as a “blatant attack on the Palestinian people and their rights” and “a flagrant violation of international law.”
“The legal status of Jerusalem will be affected by the decision of one country or another to open representative offices”, said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, a regional organization of six Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. “East Jerusalem is an occupied land under international law.”
In a statement, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also said they were “concerned that the Czech Republic opened a diplomatic office in Jerusalem whose international status in guaranteed by UN resolutions,” adding that the move could jeopardize peace talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Muslim-majority Kosovo opens embassy in Jerusalem
Reacting to the criticism, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted that the Jerusalem branch was not an embassy, and was simply meant to strengthen cooperation with Israeli government offices and cater to Czech citizens visiting or living in the city.
Czech officials insisted the move “has no impact on the will of the Czech Republic to further develop political and economic relations with the Palestinian authority.”
The United States and Guatemala were until recently the only two countries to have full-fledged embassies located in Jerusalem. On Sunday, Kosovo also opened an embassy in Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the Holy City as the capital of Israel.
A number of EU countries – including the Czech Republic and Hungary – recently took steps to increase their diplomatic presence in the Holy City, claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.