Prague May Use New Ties with Israel As Pretext for Role in Peace Process

Czechoslovakia may use its new relationship with Israel as a springboard to become actively involved in the Middle East peace process.

Although officially Prague still leans toward. the Palestinian cause, its resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel on Friday, after a 23-year break, enhances its credibility as a mediator.

An agreement establishing full diplomatic relations was signed in the Czech capital by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and his counterpart in the new Czech government, Jiri Dienstbier.

“I am happy to remedy the nonsensical situation that occurred in 1967, when we broke off diplomatic relations with Israel,” Dienstbier said at a news conference.

He was referring to the break with Israel by the Soviet Union and all of the Warsaw Pact countries except Romania in the wake of the Six-Day War.

The renewal of diplomatic tics was promised in December by Czechoslovakia’s new president, Vaclav Havel.

Havel, a prominent playwright, announced as soon as he took office that relations with Israel were one of the top priorities in his country’s new foreign policy.

Czechoslovakia was originally a warm friend of Israel. It supported the establishment of the Jewish state in the U.N. General Assembly in 1947 and was one of the first countries to recognize Israel when it declared its independence in 1948.

Havel, who has expressed interest in helping to create a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, has invited Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat to Prague.

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