Czech PM: 'We'll Strengthen EU-Israel Ties'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, told Israeli President Shimon Peres that he would fight threats to freeze relations with Israel.

"We will work so that the voices in Europe calling to slow down or freeze the promotion of relations to Israel won't get what they're after," Topolanek told Peres.

In a meeting with the Czech prime minister on Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said EU member nations were wrong to tie their relationship with Israel on the status of talks with the Palestinians.

"Don't set conditions for us," Netanyahu told Topolanek.

"Peace is in Israel's interest no less than it is in Europe's interest, and there's no need to make the upgrade in relations with Israel conditional on progress in the peace process," he said.

According to Israeli media, the atmosphere in the first visit by a foreign leader since the installation of the government three weeks ago was relaxed and amiable.

Topolanek asked about construction in Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), frequently cited as a provocation.

"If Israelis can't build homes in the West Bank, then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either," the prime minister said.

"I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing community], I don't think there's a problem," he said, correctly referring to Judea and Samaria as "disputed territory," whose future will be part of the negotiations.

Source: Haaretz

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