Tensions between Russia and the Czech Republic rose in April after the Czech authorities had announced the expulsion of 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague.
The Czech Republic needs to rebuild political relations with Russia, the country’s Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said in an interview published on the Pravo newspaper’s website on Saturday.
“We need to rebuild our political relations, no one doubts that,” he pointed out. “I convened a closed-door roundtable for members of the parliamentary parties to discuss our views on relations with Russia. It would be good to have the broadest possible support in the country on this crucial matter,” the top diplomat added.
According to Kulhanek, the future of relations with Russia will be decided by a new government that will be formed after October’s parliamentary election.
The Czech foreign minister was confident that both countries needed to boost pragmatic ties but in his view, relations would remain stalled until Russia removed the Czech Republic from its list of unfriendly states.
“As an important step towards improvement of our relations – and it would be a marathon race – I would consider the removal of the Czech Republic from the list of unfriendly states,” he said. “In this regard, the ball is in Russia’s court. But it is a matter of months, and maybe even years,” Kulhanek said.
At the same time, he called for maintaining trade and economic relations with Russia. “I’m convinced that economic relations [with Russia] should be maintained [at the current level], while Czech companies, interested in expanding their businesses in Russia should be supported, [because] they create jobs for us,” he said.
Tensions between Russia and the Czech Republic rose in April after the Czech authorities had announced the expulsion of 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague, who, according to the Czech authorities, were “officers of Russia’s SVR and GRU intelligence agencies.”
Prague explained the move, citing the so-called newly-discovered circumstances related to the ammunition depot blast that occurred in the eastern Czech village of Vrbetice in 2014.
The Russian Foreign Ministry protested against the move that Prague had taken “under false pretenses,” and declared 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow personae non grata. The parties later agreed to bring their diplomatic staff to parity.
The Russian embassy in Prague and the Czech embassy in Moscow each currently have seven diplomats, 25 technical and administrative personnel and 19 locally employed staff.