President Abbas thanks Czech officials for balanced approach to Middle East on Prague visit

23-02-2009

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has met with the Czech head of state Václav Klaus and other Czech officials during a two-day visit to Prague. He shared with them the Palestinian authority’s views on the current situation in the Middle East, and praised the Czech Republic’s involvement in the peace process.

Photo: Christian FalveyPhoto: Christian Falvey “Some people say I’m ambitious, but I’m not that ambitious”. That’s what the Czech president, Václav Klaus, told Mahmud Abbas in Prague on Monday when asked by reporters whether the Czech Republic might help ease the situation between Fatah and Hammas.

But despite President Klaus’ prudent evaluation of the country’s diplomatic potential, both officials agreed that unless unity between the two rival Palestinian organizations is reached, the peace process in the Middle East cannot continue. President Abbas also said that for the peace process to go ahead, any new Israeli government must recognize two fundamental conditions.

“We certainly hope that neither of the parties decides to return the negotiations back to the beginning. It is essential that both sides fulfil their commitments, first and foremost the commitment towards the existence of two states, and an end to further construction of settlements in the occupied territories. Those are things that have already been agreed, and upon which we want to build.”

The Czech presidency of the EU has declared continuing the Middle East peace process as one of its priorities. In January, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg set off to the region just days after the launch of Israeli ground operation in Gaza. However, Czech officials were embarrassed when a presidency spokesperson said the Israeli operation was defensive, rather than offensive, a statement rapidly withdrawn by Prague.

But the Palestinian leader assured President Klaus he continues to believe the Czech Republic has a balanced approach to the Middle East, and appreciated the assistance and support provided to the Palestinian Authority.

“We are very pleased that the Czech Republic has a balanced position - a balanced policy - thanks to which it can play a positive role in resolving the issues of the Middle East. The Czech Republic has provided us with assistance in a wide range of areas, specifically for example the power plant in the town of Tubas, or the solar plant in Bethlehem. Your country has also given us other tangible aid, for instance in the form of training and education for our security forces and diplomats.”

During his visit to Prague, President Mahmud Abbas also invited Václav Klaus to visit the Palestinian territories. The date of the next Palestinian elections remains unclear but recent polls suggest that Hamas is leading not only in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank, currently controlled by Mr Abbas’ Fatah movement. If Mr Klaus wants to repay the visit, he should perhaps hurry up.

23-02-2009