Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Czechs support Israel joining NATO

The Czech Republic favors Israel joining NATO in the face of Iran's continued race towards nuclear power, Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

In Israel for a three-day visit to include talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Parkanová said in an exclusive interview that Iran was a "rogue state" whose nuclear program was taken "very seriously" by the government in Prague, which would be willing to support Israel, if necessary, with all its available "forces and capabilities."

On Monday, Parkanová met with Barak for an hour-and-a-half at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where she was met by an IDF honor guard led by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. On Sunday night, she opened an exhibition at the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya commemorating Czechoslovakian military assistance to Israel upon the establishment of the state 60 years ago .

During her meetings at the Defense Ministry, Parkanová - who has been to Israel three times in the past - spoke with Barak about regional issues such as Iran, as well as the enhancement of defense cooperation between the countries and the possible procurement of Israeli-made defense systems. The two also shared sensitive intelligence information on a number of regional topics.

Concerning Iran, Parkanová said that the current government in Prague was in favor of Israel joining NATO. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO.

"I am in a position to speak on behalf of the current government, and not all of NATO, and we are in favor," she said, while adding that there were countries from the Western military alliance that opposed Israeli membership.

"We would need to talk about conditions for this," she said. "On the one hand, there is the assessment that Israel has a successful military, but there are also other foreign policy and diplomatic considerations." (JP)


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