Czech Republic playing crucial role in Syria, says deputy foreign minister

Faisal Mekdad, Martin Tlapa, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has agreed to send some four million crowns in extraordinary humanitarian aid to Syria, Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Tlapa confirmed on Thursday after meeting his counterpart Faisal Mekdad. Humanitarian aid and the need to bring hostilities to an end in Syria were the two main issues discussed at their Prague meeting this week.

Faisal Mekdad,  Martin Tlapa,  photo: CTK
From the start of the conflict in Syria, the Czech Republic has maintained a steady presence, keeping open its embassy in Damascus regardless of continued fighting and upheaval. On Thursday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad met with his counterpart Martin Tlapa as well as Finance Minister Andrej Babiš; Mr Mekdad, had praise for the Czech Republic, making clear the role of diplomats was for more than about pleasantries and cocktail parties but about sharing the burden and doing what they could to help. After the talks Thursday, he spoke with local journalists:

“We are looking for a time when the crisis will come to an end. We discussed the present political developments, where the government of the Syrian Arab Republic is committed to the cessation of hostilities… and to the provision of humanitarian assistance to all Syrians… This is in fact what we are looking forward to achieve in the coming months and years but both Syria and the Czech Republic can benefit from this bilateral cooperation, which started a long time ago.”

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stressed that throughout the drawn-out conflict the Czech Embassy in Damascus had played a crucial part, noting that the Czech ambassador to Syria, Eva Filipi, had been outstanding in her role:

Eva Filipi,  photo: Czech Television
“Through her efforts she carried responsibility not only for the Czech Republic but also for some European countries and also for the United States. All our discussions with the United States were carried through her. She visited even some American prisoners who were caught for entering Syria illegally and some of them were released because of Czech assistance.”

Presently, the Czech Republic has pledged four million crowns in aid and could follow up with as much as 200 million crowns, if approved by the government. The Czech Embassy in Damascus is moreover coordinating humanitarian aid deliveries on behalf of all the EU member states. Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Tlapa:

“We can define directly methods of delivering humanitarian assistance: the Red Cross in Syria is in a position where it can deliver humanitarian assistance to areas where there is still fighting or instability. The assistance is going into areas which are the most dangerous now in Syria and this is very important for the people there.”