The Czech Republic has found itself in a diplomatic tug-of-war between Turkey and the main Syrian Kurdish political party PYD following the arrest of former PYD leader Saleh Muslim in Prague. Muslim was detained at the weekend on an Interpol warrant at Turkey’s behest. Turkey has requested his extradition, while the PYD has appealed for his release.
The United States have re-sold old weapons from central and Eastern Europe to Syria, despite guaranteeing to be the end user, the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism reported on Wednesday. Some of the weapons were reportedly purchased in the Czech Republic. According to the Czech journalists, who cooperated with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, such a procedure would be a breach of the arms trade agreement. The report, which cites publicly available documents, claims that the American Defence Ministry bought assault rifles, mortar shells and other military technique worth 500 billion crowns and subsequently re-sold them to Syrian rebels fighting ISIS.
Czech humanitarian aid has played a key role in helping Syrian refugees in
Jordan, lessening the motivation for them to continue on to Europe, the
Czech ambassador to Jordan Petr Hladík has said. In an interview for the
Czech News Agency, he added that Czech aid had also led to better
conditions for Czech firms exporting to Jordan; in 2016, Czech exports to
the country rose by 62 percent year-on-year.
In total, Czech humanitarian aid to Jordan last year amounted to 75 million crowns – 40 million of which of which went to the second-largest refugee camp in Jordan, Azrak. The funds went towards improving living quarters and capacity at the camp.
The Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, has denied suggestions that intelligence reports produced by the Czech embassy in Damascus are at odds with the position of the country’s NATO allies on the conflict in Syria. The charge was contained in a leaked document written by Czech diplomats at NATO HQ.
Czech President Miloš Zeman reserved judgement on Friday on a US missile strike targeting an airbase in Syria until more is known about a suspected chemical attack on Tuesday by the Assad regime on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in which more than 80 people, including children, died. The BBC reported that hundreds had suffered symptoms consistent with reaction to a nerve agent. President Zeman called for an investigation by an independent UN Security Council committee, saying it needed to be determined whether the Syrian Air Force had indeed resorted to the crime of using chemical weapons. He suggested that a failure to comply with an investigation was tantamount to an admission of guilt.
Over the last six years, 428 Syrian refugees received asylum in the Czech Republic, according to numbers released by the Czech Interior Ministry. Temporary asylum was given 389 Syrian refugees by the end of last year, while 39 received permanent asylum residence permits. The Czech Republic is not regarded as a destination country when it comes to refugees: last year the country less than 1,500 people applied for asylum here.
Czech politicians reacted to Thursday’s surprise cruise missile strike by the US on a Syrian airbase: Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Twitter expressed the hope that the strike, which used 59 cruise missiles, would prevent further chemical attacks by the Assad regime. The airbase struck is thought to have been used by Assad forces earlier this week in a gruesome chemical attack which killed at least 74 people, including children. Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said the US strike ordered by President Donald Trump was adequate given the nature of the Assad regime’s attack on civilians. The US airstrike was supported by Great Britain, France, and Israel and condemned by Russia. On the Czech political scene, the strike was condemned by the Communist Party.
The Czech Republic has joined widespread condemnation of Tuesday’s toxic gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province that left 100 people dead and 400 injured, many of them children. Speaking at an international conference in aid of Syria, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek said that if it were confirmed that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against innocent civilians Prague would consider resolute action, including the possibility of closing its embassy in Damascus.