FM  Silvan Shalom met with his Czech counterpart FM Cyril Svoboda in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met today with his Czech counterpart Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. This is the first visit of Foreign Minister Shalom to one of the Eastern European countries that acceded to the EU at the beginning of May.

The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s closest friends in the international arena. At the beginning of their meeting, Foreign Minister Shalom informed his host that Israel views the Czech Republic as an important country, in light of the deep-rooted historic ties between the two countries, their shared values, the empathy of the Czech people towards the Jewish people over the years and the shared political and economic interests of both countries. The two ministers discussed ways to enhance their bilateral ties for the benefit of both peoples.

During their luncheon meeting that was held in the Czech Foreign Ministry complex, Foreign Minister Shalom said that the Czech Republic could play a positive role in shaping Europe’s approach towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. Minister Shalom stated that Europe can play a key role in the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East, but, in order to do so, the EU must adopt a balanced approach. Israel views the Czech Republic as an important country, that has the ability to bring about a balanced European position, enabling it to provide a tangible and significant contribution to the promotion of peace in the region.

Foreign Minister Shalom updated his counterpart regarding the revised disengagement plan that was passed by the Israeli Government, and the implementation of the plan. Minister Shalom placed an emphasis on the obligation of the Palestinians to fight terrorism and the need for political reforms in the Palestinian Authority, as demanded by the international community itself, irrespective of Israel’s own plans. Foreign Minister Shalom stated that it was in the interest of the Palestinians to carry out these measures, enabling both sides to march forward towards a political agreement, accompanied by economic prosperity. He added that Europe has a great responsibility, and should bring pressure to bear on the Palestinians, in order to promote this important agenda.

Foreign Minister Shalom recalled that it was the Czech Republic which led the way within the EU with the initiative that was passed in September 2003 to include the Hamas organization on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. The Foreign Minister called on the Czech Republic to lead the effort to include the Hizbullah on the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, as it will constrain the terrorist organization and bring about calm on the northern border.

During the meeting with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Shalom also underlined the importance of the international effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. The Czech Republic is a member of the IAEA Board of Governors which is about to convene, and therefore plays a key role in the international efforts to deal with this issue.

Later on this evening, Foreign Minister Shalom will meet with the Czech Prime Minister, Mr. Vladimir Spidle. The meeting will take place two days ahead of the Leadership Summit of the enlarged EU. This will be the first time that a Czech Prime Minister participates in a summit as a full member of this unique and important organization. The Foreign Minister will utilize this opportunity to present Israel’s expectations to the Czech Republic and the EU in regard to this distinguished forum.

During the two-day meeting in Prague, the Foreign Minister will also meet with the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, with the Minister of Defence Miroslav Kostelka, the Chairman of the Czech Parliament Lubomir Zaoralek, the Chairman of the Foreign and Defence Affairs Committee of the Czech Senate, Josef Jarab and the leaders of the Jewish community in Prague.