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Former foreign minister condemns Zeman's words on Ukraine

ČTK |
17 October 2017

Prague, Oct 16 (CTK) - The Czech government and the Chamber of Deputies should clearly distance themselves from the pro-Russian statements by President Milos Zeman in his speech in the CE last week, Chamber foreign committee head and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said on Monday.

In his speech in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last Tuesday, Zeman called the Russian annexation of Crimea a "fait accompli." He recommended that Russia and Ukraine agree on compensation, for instance in the form of money or oil or gas. Zeman also pointed out that the anti-Russian sanctions were not effective.

The foreign committee of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, met on Monday to deal with Zeman's controversial speech. However, it did not have the necessary quorum to issue any official stance since many members were absent due to the upcoming general election to be held on Friday and Saturday.

Schwarzenberg said the president may have his own views, but he should not express them abroad and speak up in a sharp contradiction with the government's foreign policy.

The Czech Republic thereby faces an international shame, he told reporters.

However, Schwarzenberg, as an opposition MP, refused to say what steps the future government should take in this respect.

"It would suffice now if the Chamber of Deputies and the government put it clearly that the president did not speak on behalf of the Czech Republic and that the country pursues different [foreign] policy," said Schwarzenberg, Zeman' rival in the runoff vote of the previous presidential election in 2013.

Schwarzenberg compared the reaction Zeman's words stirred up in Ukraine to the situation in Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement from 1938, by which France, Britain, Italy and Hitler's Germany forced it to cede its border regions with prevailing German population to the Third Reich, and during the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of the country that crushed the Prague Spring reform movement.

Czech representatives should join European solidarity with Ukraine, Schwarzenberg added.

The centre-left coalition government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) debated Zeman's speech last week. It rejected his stances saying they were at sharp variance with Czech foreign policy.

The Senate, the upper house of parliament, said in its resolution that Zeman had legitimised aggression that was at variance with international law by his statements on the Russian annexation of Crimea. The head od state should respect Czech foreign policy, the Senate agreed.

However, it did not adopt the proposal to express the view that Zeman was harming the interests of the Czech Republic.

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