Czech Delegation Arrives in Israel to Explore Resumption of Relations

A high-level delegation from Prague met Wednesday with Foreign Ministry officials to discuss an imminent resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and Czechoslovakia, which the Czechs broke after the 1967 Six-Day War.

It could not immediately be confirmed whether Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens participated in the talks.

The delegation, representing the Foreign Ministry in Prague, also inspected the old Czech Embassy premises, vacant for more than 20 years.

The Czech officials reportedly contacted local contractors to discuss the embassy’s renovation, which led some to believe that Czechoslovakia intends to reopen its embassy here as soon as relations are re-established.

Hungary, which also broke with Israel in 1967, resumed full diplomatic relations, at the ambassadorial level, on Sept. 18. But it did so after an 18-month period of representation on the consular level.

Poland and Israel currently retain interests sections in each other’s countries, an even lower level of diplomatic relations.

But there is reason to believe the Czechs will bypass these intermediate stages and proceed directly to full diplomatic relations.

The Czech delegation’s arrival coincided with the visit here of Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn, the first Eastern bloc foreign minister to visit Israel in more than 20 years.

Horn, who arrived Sunday, conferred Tuesday with 25 leading Israeli business leaders on how to improve economic ties between their countries.

The Hungarian official said his country’s 1967 breach with Israel had been a mistake. He said Hungary thought at the time that such a step would spur peace negotiations in the Middle East. But it turned out to be one-sided.

“A one-sided policy can never be constructive,” he said.

Horn told The Jerusalem Post that trade between the two countries could reach $200 million annually by next year, a five-fold increase over the present level.

Trade between Israel and Hungary amounted to $40 million last year, compared to $9 million in 1988.

NEXT STORY