Czech envoy called on carpet over Zeman’s anti-Muslim words

War of words may spill over into economic realm, some analysts fear

Prague, June 13 (ČTK) — Czech ambassador to Riyad Jiří Slavík was summoned to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday to hear a complaint about President Miloš Zeman’s anti-Muslim statements, daily Lidové noviny (LN) writes today.

Zeman, commenting on a recent attack in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, said Islamic ideology was behind similarly motivated violent attacks.

“One of the articles of the Hamas movements says: ‘Kill every Jew you see.’ Do we really want to pretend that this is just an extreme?” LN quotes Zeman as saying.

“Do we really want to be politically correct and say that everyone is good and only a small part of extremists and fundamentalists commit these crimes?” he added.

Saudi Arabia has launched a diplomatic offensive toward the Czech Republic over Zeman’s words, LN writes.

Prague authorities fear that the rift with the most powerful Arab country may spill over into the economic sphere, it adds.

“When summoned to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Slavík heard a very resolute complaint about a variety of Zeman’s anti-Muslim statements,” LN quotes a senior source from the Czech diplomacy as saying.

“The latest case was Zeman’s speech at the reception on the Israeli national holiday in May,” he added.

“The Saudis had an exact list of what Zeman said on the issue in the past. The list had several pages. The ambassador was in a very unpleasant situation as the protest had never gone so far before,” the source said.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Social Democrats, ČSSD) met representatives of the Arab League in Athens, but none of them reacted to Zeman’s words.

However, there is tension between Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic now, LN writes.

“I have invited Arab ambassadors for next week and I will certainly want to speak about this with them,” Zaorálek said.

Zaorálek said the religious level should be left and it should be borne in mind that the affair also had an economic dimension, LN writes.

Rich guests from the Arabian Peninsula are frequent guests in Czechs spas and the Czech Republic is negotiating on agricultural and health projects with Saudi Arabia, it adds.

Zaorálek has indicated that he is preparing a reconciliatory position, LN writes.

“As Zeman has a certain history of statements relating to Arabs and the Muslim world, we cannot claim that the latest case was a mere error,” Zaorálek said.

Referring to its source from the Foreign Ministry, LN writes that Slavík was assign to stress that the critical passages from Zeman’s latest speech were not directly linked with Arabs or Islam.

Zeman announced on Tuesday that he would not apologize for what he had said.

The apology was demanded by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), indignant at the statements Zeman made at the May 27 celebration of the Israeli Independence Day in Prague.

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