Syria, Kosovo and China in the spotlight as Czech top officials debate foreign policy line

Tomáš Petříček, photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

The Czech Republic’s top officials met to clear up the country’s stand on a number of a hot foreign policy issues on Thursday, voicing condemnation of the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria and rejecting President Zeman’s proposal for the Czech Republic to revoke its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state.

Tomáš Petříček,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
The president, prime minister, foreign minister and the speakers of both houses of Parliament hold regular meetings on key foreign policy issues, intended to clarify the country’s foreign policy line and clear up any possible misconceptions stemming from isolated statements made by top officials at home and abroad.

On Thursday they had a packed agenda – not only due to the ongoing Turkish military offensive in Syria, but also due to the Czech president’s efforts to get the Czech Republic to revoke its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, which he aired on a recent visit to Serbia, and a feud between Prague and Beijing which has frozen cooperation between the two cities.

The president’s proposal for the Czech Republic to revoke its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state in 2008 was rejected, despite the fact that it was a move made by the government against the recommendation of the lower house. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said there was no call to review the Czech Republic’s stand on Kosovo today.

Kosovo flag | Photo: 1966666,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License
“The Czech Republic recognized Kosovo de iure (legally), we did so based on the fact that it met the required attributes of statehood. Nothing has changed in the past ten years and so there is no reason for us to revoke that decision today.”

In addition to the argument that revoking its recognition of Kosovo would harm the “continuity and readability” of Czech foreign policy, the Czech foreign minister warned that the country had a number of bilateral agreements with Kosovo, including an agreement on the return of illegal migrants, which would be invalidated by such a move.

A joint statement approved at the meeting expresses support for the EU’s expansion to the Western Balkans, which would increase security in Europe, and urges Serbia and Kosovo to work on improving their relations since the region’s integration in the EU would not be possible with existing animosities.

Turkish-backed forces from the Free Syrian Army,  photo: ČTK/AP
The joint statement also condemns the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria, in line with EU foreign policy. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš made it clear that, when he said in early September, that the Visegrad Four states supported Ankara’s intention to create a “safe zone for refugees” in northern Syria there was no talk of an invasion. He expressed regret that the EU had not done more to prevent the military offensive and push for a diplomatic solution.

The meeting of top officials also debated the state of Czech-Chinese relations in light of the feud between Prague and Beijing and the termination of the sister-city agreement between them after Prague wanted to remove the article pertaining to its recognition of “One China”. Foreign Minister Petříček said the Czech government’s foreign policy, which recognizes “One China”, remains unchanged and should enable a dialogue based on mutual respect and economic interests.

In the joint statement Czech officials also pledge to increase the country’s presence in foreign missions which are key to European security, open new embassies on the African Continent and boost development aid to the region.