The Czech Republic and the United States are just “three words away” from a treaty on basing a U.S. anti-missile radar facility in Central Bohemia, according to the leaders of the two countries. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on Wednesday, and while a final treaty was not agreed, they seemed confident it would be soon. But the path to expanding missile defence to Central Europe does not appear smooth.
US president George Bush said on Wednesday that his country was “very
close” to signing an agreement with the Czech Republic on building an
American radar base in central Bohemia. Mr Bush made his remarks after
meeting with Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek in Washington. Mr
Topolanek, for his part, said that only some small details needed to be
sorted out and that negotiations on the issue would be concluded very
On his way to Washington Mr Topolánek had said he expected an agreement would be signed on the US base around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest at the beginning of April. He said discussions in the US capital would look at how the US anti-missile system would be linked to NATO structures and Russia’s opposition to the plan. Czech negotiators are also demanding that their country’s scientists be given a role in anti-missile research and development.
The planned US radar base would be part of a global anti-missile defence shield linked to a missile base in neighbouring Poland. Opinion polls have consistently suggested that most Czechs are opposed to it.
The Czech prime minister expects that the Czech Republic will sign an agreement with the United States on the building of a US radar base in central Bohemia around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest at the beginning of April. Mr Topolánek made the comments on his way to Washington. He said discussions in the US capital would take in how the US anti-missile system would be linked to NATO structures and Russia’s opposition to the plan. The Czech side is also demanding that its scientists are given a role in anti-missile research and development. Prime Minister Topolánek is set to hold talks with President George Bush on Wednesday.
The negotiations about a US radar base stationed on Czech territory will be completed in Washington this week, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told the AP news agency, ahead of his departure for a working visit to the United States on Monday. “We have reached a stage where we are able to complete the talks during my visit to America,” Mr Topolánek said. The opposition Social Democrats and Communists have criticised his words. According to the Communist chairman Vojtěch Filip he doesn’t have the mandate to negotiate, since the majority of Czechs are against the radar.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek leaves on a three-day working visit the United States on Monday. His meetings with US President George Bush and American top officials are expected to revolve around two outstanding issues in bilateral relations – the lifting of visa restrictions for Czechs travelling to the US and Czech participation in the US missile defence programme.
Senior members of the Czech Green Party met in Prague on Sunday to discuss party policy. On the agenda were American proposals to build a missile-defence shield in the Czech Republic. The Greens are split on whether such a radar base should be built on Czech soil, and at Sunday’s meeting, the suggestion of having an in-party referendum on the matter was discussed. Also discussed at Sunday’s meeting were healthcare fees, introduced last month by the government coalition, of which the Green Party is a member. Some quarters in the Green Party want to reserve their opinions on healthcare fees until the government next discusses the topic, other Greens want the party leadership to pressurize the coalition into changing aspects of the system of healthcare fees immediately.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again warned that his country would target missiles at the Czech Republic if it were to host a US tracking radar on its territory. Speaking at a press briefing for foreign journalists President Putin said the governments of the Czech Republic and Poland should think carefully before agreeing to be part of the US missile defense shield because they would be putting their own people at risk. The Russian president, whose term in office ends in May, moreover underlined the fact that repeated polls in both countries indicated that neither Czech nor Polish citizens wanted US missile defense facilities on their territory. Although neither country has as yet made a commitment, both the Czech and Polish governments are engaged in negotiations with Washington on the missile defense project. The two countries parliaments are expected to vote on the matter in the course of this year.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said he was unwilling to accept the Communists’ terms of support for Jan Švejnar in Friday’s presidential election. The Communists said on Monday they were ready to vote for Jan Švejnar if the Social Democrats and the Greens promised not to support the US missile defence system in the Czech Republic. Mr Schwarzenberg said that if the Social Democrats and the Greens acceded to this condition, Mr Švejnar’s candidature would immediately lose sense.
The Czech – US treaty on the siting of a radar base, part of the American anti-missile shield, in the Czech Republic, will provide for the system’s cooperation with NATO, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar said on Thursday, after talks with US officials in Prague. The Czech Republic has been negotiating with the United States on the positioning of the radar station on Czech territory for more than a year; Mr Pojar said he expected the talks to conclude ‘within weeks, rather than months’.
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