Thursday, 24 September 2020

Prague has no intention of shutting embassy in Damascus

16 November 2016

Prague, Nov 15 (CTK) - The Czech Republic will not withdraw from its embassy in Damascus because it effectively helps provide humanitarian aid for Syria, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said after meeting Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (both Social Democrats, CSSD) yesterday.
Sobotka said humanitarian aid will be a Czech foreign political priority next year.
"The embassy in Damascus will continue operating," Zaoralek said.
"We are capable of doing humanitarian work there, which others fail to do because they lack contacts in the area and do not cooperate with partners such as the Red Crescent in a way we do," Zaoralek said.
He recalled that the Czech embassy has helped U.S. citizens in Syria as well as several European countries that searched for their people in the country.
"I have heard many thanks from them, and I find it pointless to consider scrapping something that has repeatedly proved useful," Zaoralek said.
A number of countries have withdrawn from their embassies in Damascus after the war conflict escalated in Syria.
Zaoralek dismissed the idea that the Czech embassy's continuing operation boosts the legitimacy of the Bashar Assad regime.
Sobotka said humanitarian aid to Syria is one of Prague's diplomatic priorities for 2017.
Besides, the Foreign Ministry should focus on forming the European defence policy and seeking a way for Europe to tackle the migration crisis not including migrant relocation quotas, Sobotka said.
He said he expects Zaoralek to submit a bill on foreign service to the cabinet by the end of the year.
Sobotka praised Zaoralek for the Czech Republic becoming more visible in the EU.
"We are trying to influence the EU decision making, also with the help of the Visegrad Four (V4) group," Sobotka said.
The V4 also includes Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Sobotka said the V4's influence in the EU increased during Prague's rotating presidency of the group from mid-2015 to mid-2016.
Sobotka met Zaoralek within his series of separate meetings with all ministers, at which he assesses their work and presents the priorities to be pursued in the respective sectors in the next year preceding the autumn 2017 general election.

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