Israel's Netanyahu in Prague for talks before Germany

4th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

Israel's premier arrives in Prague on Wednesday, hours before heading to Germany on his first European visit since last week's successful Palestinian status upgrade at the United Nations, Czech officials said Tuesday.

A staunch US and Israeli ally, the Czech Republic was the only European Union state to back Israel in voting against the upgrade, which secured Palestine non-member UN status last Thursday.

Prague joined Israel, the United States and Canada as one of only nine countries worldwide to oppose the bid. The UN General Assembly approved non-member observer status for Palestine by an overwhelming vote of 138 against nine, with 41 abstentions.

Wednesday's talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Czech counterpart Petr Necas are to focus on "the state of the Middle East peace process, the political and security situation in this region and the development of Czech-Israeli economic relations," according to a Czech government statement.

The meeting comes amid international calls for Israel to drop plans to build settler homes in a highly contentious strip of the Palestinian-controlled West Bank land near Jerusalem.

Netanyahu announced the move in reaction to the successful Palestinian UN bid and has refused to go back on the decision despite international condemnation.

France and Britain were among several European states to summon Israeli ambassadors this week over the West Bank construction plans, vehemently opposed by Palestinians.

Netanyahu will fly on to Berlin later Wednesday for meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose government said Monday it was "deeply concerned" about Israel's plans for new settlements.

Netanyahu thanked Necas via telephone on Saturday for Prague's "No" vote at the UN, which the Israeli leader termed "courageous."

"Czech support for Israel is one of the last great legacies of (late Czech president) Vaclav Havel," major Czech daily the Lidovy Noviny noted in the wake of the vote.

"The Czech position, according to which Israel, as the only real democracy in the (Middle East) region, must enjoy the European Union's full support, is correct," it added.

© 2012 AFP

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