Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reportedly show that the Czech Republic was warned by the United States against selling machine tools they feared could find their way to use in the Iranian nuclear programme. Specifically, it claims that in the search for weapons-making machinery, Iranian companies have attempted to bypass Czech export controls by buying through a Turkish partner.
The newly appointed US ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, arrived in Prague on Monday, some 10 days before he’s scheduled to present his credentials to President Václav Klaus. Mr Eisen’s nomination for the post of US ambassador to Prague, that has been vacant for two years, had been pushed through by President Barack Obama without the approval of the US Congress. Norman Eisen, the former ethics advisor to President Obama, said he believed his stay in the Czech Republic would be one of the most interesting experiences in his life.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that discussions about whether a Secretary of State for European Affairs would be based in the government office and outside the foreign ministry were still continuing. The thorny issue has opened a rift between the foreign minister and Prime Minister Petr Nečas for the past six months. The Foreign Ministry opposes what it sees as a rival centre for Czech foreign relations. The prime minister argues that government policy could be better coordinated there. Mr. Schwarzenberg added in an interview on Czech public television that some foreign embassies might be reopened if more cash were forthcoming. He pointed out that the real income of the Foreign Ministry had dropped by a third over the past decade.
Separately, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg described former Civic Democrat minister Petr Gandalovič as a hot candidate to become the Czech ambassador to the United States. The foreign minister said he expected the government to agree on a nomination that would be presented to the president in the coming days. The Czech Republic has been without an ambassador to the US for around six months. New US ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen is expected to start in the post by the end of January. This follows a two year gap in filling the vacancy. Mr. Gandalovič is a former minister for regional affairs and minister of agriculture and mayor of the northern city of Ústí. He was Czech consul general in New York between 1997 and 2002.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is to make a working visit to Israel and the Palestinian autonomous territory between January 22 and 24. The ongoing conflict in the region will be at the top of the agenda for talks. Relations between the Czech Republic and Israel have been close in the aftermath of communism. Mr. Schwarzenberg made a similar visit at the end of 2008 during his first stint as foreign minister. His successor in the post, Jan Kohout, visited the region at the end of 2009. Current Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman visited Prague in 2009.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent the Czech people a message
of sympathy on the death of Czech senator Jiří Dienstbier. In a
condolence letter sent on behalf of the US administration, Ms. Clinton
senator Dienstbier’s courage and vision during the communist years had
helped bring about the fall of communism in his homeland. Jiří
will always be remembered as talented journalist, a brave dissident and a
defender of human rights. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and
three children, the US Secretary of State said in her open letter to the
Meanwhile, people around the country and at Czech embassies abroad have started signing condolence books. They will be able to pay their last respects to the senator at the Senate on Friday morning. A private funeral is to be held on Friday afternoon.
The new US ambassador to Prague, Norman Eisen, is due to take up the post on January 28, the CTK news agency wrote on Wednesday citing Prague Castle sources. Mr. Eisen who has served as President Obama’s advisor on ethics and government reform, will present his credentials to President Vaclav Klaus on the same day. The post of US ambassador to Prague has been unoccupied since the departure of Richard Graber in January 2009. Mr. Eisen’s appointment to the post was not without problems. His nomination was blocked by Republican Senator Charles Grassley. Late last year President Obama pushed through his appointment on a temporary basis by-passing Congress which was in recess at the time.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has announced a change-of-guard at several Czech embassies. Career diplomat Dusan Strauch is to serve as Czech ambassador to North Korea, where he will replace Martin Tomčo who will take up the ambassadorial post in Finland. A number of changes will be made in other countries as well, within the next few weeks. The name of the new ambassador to Ukraine has yet to be announced and it is not yet certain who will fill the ambassadorial post to the US. Petr Gandalovič, a former agriculture minister who served as general consul in New York, is a likely candidate.
The new US ambassador to the Czech Republic should take up his posting in the second half of this month, the Czech News Agency reported on Wednesday citing diplomatic sources. US president Barack Obama’s ethics advisor, Norman Eisen, was appointed to the post at the end of last year taking advantage of a loophole allowing the president to push through nominations while Congress is in recess. The appointment of Eisen had faced opposition, notably from one mid-west Republican. The post of US ambassador will have been vacant for two years on January 20th.
In related news, the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, welcomed on Thursday the appointment Norman Eisen as the new US ambassador to the Czech Republic. Mr Schwarzenberg said it was something to be grateful for although the news was tainted by the fact the appointment was only temporary. Mr Schwarzenberg said it was strange that the post had not been filled for nearly two years but said he would now reciprocally consider appointing a new Czech ambassador to Washington. Deputy head of the lower house’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Jan Hamáček, said on Thursday the situation was an unnecessary complication to Czech-American relations.
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