Zaorálek denies Czech embassy in Syria at odds with NATO allies over conflict

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek

The Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, has denied suggestions that intelligence reports produced by the Czech embassy in Damascus are at odds with the position of the country’s NATO allies on the conflict in Syria. The charge was contained in a leaked document written by Czech diplomats at NATO HQ.

Czech embassy in Damascus,  photo: archive of Czech Foreign Ministry
The Czech Republic is the only European Union state to still have a diplomatic office in Damascus over six years after the conflict in Syria began.

Now the country’s embassy is in the headlines at home after Czech Television on Thursday quoted a leaked dispatch written by somebody described by the station as a “highly placed Czech diplomat” at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The document is highly critical of the work of the Czech embassy in Damascus.

It states that intelligence reports produced by Czech diplomats in Damascus border on Russia’s interpretation of the Syrian conflict and do not correspond to the position of core NATO members.

Speaking to Czech Television, the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, pointed out that NATO wasn’t involved in the war in Syria.

And the foreign policy chief strongly denied that the alleged differences between the positions outlined in Czech intelligence and those of Prague’s NATO allies undermined the partnership.

“That’s nonsense. I can tell you that the last time I sat down with our intelligence people to discuss recent events in Syria a significant portion of the information that they provided me with was NATO information. And I can guarantee that when our intelligence officers draw conclusions or provide us with descriptions of the situation, NATO information plays a completely essential role. I clearly remember that it did during the most recent meetings I had with them. So I think this is highly exaggerated and doesn’t correspond to reality.”

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The leaked dispatch was reportedly sent to Minister Zaorálek and other top-level people at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the country’s 100-plus ambassadors.

The document pulls no punches, saying the arguments used by the Damascus embassy were “often completely at odds” with the analyses of major NATO players.

The author wasn’t shy of employing irony either, calling, according to Czech Television, for the Czech Republic to support the Kremlin’s position on Syria at the next NATO-Russia Council in Brussels; Prague should reveal the “aggressive nature of the policy of the current US administration”, they wrote.