Military authorities have confirmed the death of four Czech soldiers killed in a suicide bombing near the Bagram Airbase in eastern Afghanistan. The attack took place in the early morning hours on Tuesday, as NATO soldiers were undertaking a routine patrol outside the air base, and just as the country is in the midst of electing a new president. Reports also suggest that at least ten local civilians were killed in the blast, for which the Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility.
Four Czech soldiers were killed and several more injured in a suicide terrorist attack in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, where the massive Bagram air base is sited, in the early hours of Tuesday, according to Czech Defence Ministry. The attack is reported to have killed ten civilians and two Afghan policemen.The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to the media. Czechs have a contingent of around 150 which helps to protect the air base. Nine soldiers Czech soldiers have died in total during the Afghan mission.
General Petr Pavel, the head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, met at the weekend in Afghanistan with the head of ISAF General Joseph Dunford who expressed the hope Czechs there would continue their work in the country even after NATO combat operations wrapped up. The aim is to help Afghan security forces in the new coming period, under a new mission to be called Resolute Support. Czech personnel staying on in Afghanistan would presumably serve at an American military hospital, train Afghan forces and help with security at the base at Bagram. General Pavel said the Czech Army was prepared to do its part; the mandate for the years 2015 and 2016 will, however, have to be approved in the Chamber of Deputies.
The Czech army is prepared to offer its forces for NATO missions in Afghanistan and Mali and in the Sinai peninsula next year and in 2016, according to the Ministry of Defense. Czech aircraft will also be offered to protect NATO airspace in 2016, probably in the Baltic States and over Iceland. A final proposal on the foreign missions should be prepared with in the next couple of weeks in order for the lower house of parliament to vote on it. The current Czech presence in Afghanistan totals 300 with the likelihood that it could be cut slightly but not increased, according to Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický. Thirty-eight Czechs are serving in Mali and 14 on the international observer mission in the Sinai.
A new survey released by the CVVM agency suggests that just under 60 percent of Czech trust Andrej Babiš most among the party leaders or top party members in the Chamber of Deputies. The prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, ranked second at 47 percent, and controversial politician Tomio Okamura, the head of the anti-immigration Dawn Party, ranked third with 43 percent. Zuzuana Roithová, of the Christian Democrats, was fourth with 41 percent; others, such as former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg of the opposition TOP 09 ranked 39 percent or less. Among Czech parties, Andrej Babiš ANO movement recently won the elections to the European Parliament, narrowly edging TOP 09 and coalition partners the Social Democrats.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has insisted that Czech moves to reset relations with China does not mean that it has abandoned its defence of human rights. Defence of human rights remained once of the country’s fundamental principles of foreign policy according to the minister, the Czech News Agency reported. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Wednesday that Prague could not recognise the sovereignty and unity of China within its current borders and at the same time recognise the exiled government of Tibet. The Czech Republic should not intervene in China’s internal affairs, he added. The government agreed that Zaorálek would make a three day official trip to Beijing at the start of next week, the first by a Czech foreign minister in 15 years. Former foreign minister and leader of the TOP 09 party Karel Schwarzenberg said human rights were violated in Tibet and the across the rest of China.
At the weekend, neighbouring Slovakia elected a new president, political newcomer Andrej Kiska, who defeated Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico by 20 percent of the vote. Czech politicians, including Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, congratulated Mr Kiska, saying they looked forward to meeting with the new head of state. As tradition dictates, Kiska’s first official foreign visit trip will be to Prague.
Members of an expert commission discussing possible changes to a major church restitution bill were not able to reach a consensus in their meeting on Tuesday; in the end they agreed only to dissolve the commission itself. Through the commission, the coalition-leading Social Democrats had been trying to partially roll back the agreement reached between the Church and State: so far, without success.
President Vladimir Putin’s signature on Tuesday of a treaty absorbing Crimea into Russia has met broad international condemnation. Here in the Czech Republic, the foreign minister says a speech by Mr. Putin signals fresh Russian imperial ambitions, while the country’s former top diplomat slammed an annexation with which Czechs can draw painful comparisons.
The president’s words elicited an angry response from the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies Karel Schwarzenberg who said Mr. Zeman should spend a month in an Iranian jail so that he would know what he was talking about. The TOP 09 leader also rejected the idea that defense of human rights harmed exports, saying that if Czech companies produced quality goods they would always find buyers.