Sunday, 23 September 2018

PM: Zeman opposing anti-Russia sanctions at odds with Czech policy

ČTK |
11 October 2017

Prague, Oct 10 (CTK) - President Milos Zeman had no mandate from the cabinet for his speech in the Council of Europe (CE) and his words are at sharp variance with Czech foreign policy, PM Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday, in reaction to Zeman challenging the anti-Russia sanctions and accepting the annexation of Crimea.

In his speech in the CE Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday, Zeman said the annexation by Russia in 2014 is a fait accompli.

He suggested that Ukraine seek agreement with Moscow on compensation, and he criticised the West's anti-Russian sanctions as ineffective.

"The Czech Republic advocates the observance of international law. The EU's sanctions against Russia are linked to the fulfilment of the Minsk agreements and cannot be lifted without the agreements being fulfilled," Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD), too, defended the preservation of the sanctions pending the Minsk agreements' fulfilment.

He said Zeman's words are not the position Prague has been promoting on international forums.

"We cannot stay indifferent to what happened with Crimea and also in Donbas. Changing state borders and violating international agreements is something we cannot keep silent on," Zaoralek said.

Zeman was also criticised by representatives of other Czech government parties.

"Today, 79 years have elapsed since the Czechoslovak borderland was occupied by the Nazi Germany. The compensation for Europe was not the desired peace, but [extermination] camps and gas," the Culture Ministry headed by Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) has tweeted.

European Parliament Czech Deputy President Pavel Telicka (ANO) said Zeman acts beyond his powers and the government should deal with his CE speech.

"After Zeman's CE speech, I expect all state-building parties and movements to call on their voters not to support Zeman in the [Czech direct presidential] election in January," Telicka said.

Opposition TOP 09 head Miroslav Kalousek said Zeman harmed the Czech Republic's reputation abroad once again, and opposition Civic Democrat (ODS) deputy head Martin Kupka spoke of "another foul" of President Zeman.

Tomio Okamura, who heads the minor opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), told CTK, however, that Crimea has always been Russian and its inhabitants themselves decided on its separation from Ukraine and switch to Russia. That is why a Russian annexation of Crimea cannot be spoken about, Okamura said.

"A century ago, we did not annex Czechoslovakia either. At the time, we simply freely decided to live in a state of our own," Okamura said, referring to the establishment of Czechoslovakia as a successor to the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of WWI.

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