Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Respekt: Czech diplomats should leave Syria

ČTK |
13 December 2016

Prague, Dec 12 (CTK) - The Czech Republic has been the last EU member country that has its ambassador in Damascus, but Czech diplomacy has nothing to do in Syria anymore and it should have withdrawn from there after Russian aircraft arrived in Syria in late 2015, Katerina Safarikova says in weekly Respekt out on Monday.

In September 2015, Russian planes turned the originally civil war into a global conflict that can only be decided by Russia and the United States, not by dictator Bashar al-Assad alone, Safarikova writes.

She says the Czech government claims that the embassy in Damascus is crucial as it provides consular services to Americans and other Czech allies. But after six years of war, few U.S. citizens are likely to be staying in Syria. Moreover, even if the embassy helped a U.S. or British citizen now and then, this is no argument for making the Assad regime legitimate by the presence of Czech Ambassador Eva Filipi in Damascus, Safarikova writes.

Filipi is one of the speakers that are to take part in a propaganda conference on the Syrian war that Assad organises in Damascus, along with people known for being loyal to Assad. Filipi is to talk about the impact of Western sanctions on everyday lives of common people in Syria, Safarikova writes.

This shows that the Czech strategy does not work anymore, she adds.

The Czech Foreign Ministry says the communication canals with Assad's regime should remain open.

Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Tlapa accompanied a delivery of Czech humanitarian aid to Damascus in October. Under the portrait of Assad, Tlapa told the media that he had arrived with aid from Czech people.

Tlapa came to Syria at the moment when Russian fighters started bombing the densely populated districts of the city of Aleppo based on Assad's order, Safarikova writes.

Who are the real recipients of the Czech aid? Were the packages also given to people living in the parts of Syria controlled by the rebels? This is one of the questions challenging the Czech foreign policy in Syria, Safarikova says.

During his visit to Damascus, Tlapa talked to representatives of Syrian economic chambers about possible opportunities for Czech firms in Syria. Focus on the so-called economic diplomacy seems cynical at the time of heavy fighting, she writes.

The Czech Foreign Ministry, which boasts of saving money thanks to the fact that the USA covers a part of the operation costs of the Czech Embassy in Damascus, seems not only cynical but also naive, Safarikova writes.

Do Czech diplomats really believe that Czech firms will take part in possible reconstruction projects in Syria, rather than Russian or U.S. companies? she says.

Due to the Czech foreign policy in Syria, the government challenges the only asset the Czech Republic has in international relations - its good reputation, especially in the sphere of human rights, Safarikova writes.

Czech diplomats officially declare that the British, French and Germans "highly appreciate" the Czech presence in Syria. However, unofficially, representatives of the above mentioned countries say the opposite. They ask why the Czechs are staying in Syria because they do not understand what aim the Czech Republic is following by acting as a foil to Assad, Safarikova writes.

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