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April 25, 2009

Czech PM: We’ll fight EU calls to freeze Israel ties: Ha’aretz

Czech Prime Minister Mirel Topolanek told President Shimon Peres on Friday that his country, which holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, would fight against calls within Europe to suspend the upgrade of relations with Israel. The visiting Czech premier’s remark came one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him that Israel’s relationship with the European Union should not be linked to its relationship with the Palestinians. “Don’t set conditions for us,” Netanyahu told Topolanek during their meeting on Thursday. “Peace is in Israel’s interest no less than it is in Europe’s interest, and there’s no need to make the upgrade in relations with Israel conditional on progress on the peace process.” Topolanek is the first foreign government leader to visit Israel since the Netanyahu cabinet was sworn in three weeks ago. The talks between the two were reportedly conducted in a relaxed atmosphere. But Topolanek brought up the issue of construction in West Bank settlements and European concerns that this could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. “If Israelis can’t build homes in the West Bank then Palestinians shouldn’t be allowed to either,” Netanyahu said in response. He told the Czech leader he has no intention of halting the expansion of existing settlements. “I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing one], I don’t think there’s a problem.” He characterized the West Bank as “disputed territory” over which negotiations must be held.

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