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Czech Leader Suggests Embassy Move to Jerusalem

FILE - Czech Republic President Milos Zeman greets supporters while claiming victory in the Czech presidential election in Prague, Jan. 27, 2018. Zeman said April 25, 2018, that his country was planning to transfer the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Czech Republic's president suggested Wednesday that his country was considering joining the U.S. in moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But the Czech government, which controls foreign policy, didn't confirm the announcement.

President Milos Zeman spelled out the process of moving the embassy, saying it would take place in three steps: An honorary consulate will be opened in Jerusalem next month, followed by other Czech institutions before the embassy's actual transfer.

Beyond the consulate's opening, he gave no further timetable.

He ended his speech at the Prague Castle at a party to celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary by saying: "Next year in Jerusalem.''

In a letter to Zeman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped he would jointly open the new embassy in Jerusalem at the end of this year.

The Czech foreign ministry didn't immediately confirm the embassy's move, though it did say that the opening of the consulate and the Czech cultural center in west Jerusalem was the first step toward having its embassy in the capital of the host country.

But it also said the Czech Republic "fully respects'' the common position of the European Union that Jerusalem must be the joint capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state.

As that's unlikely to happen soon, the embassy transfer Zeman hopes for is far from being imminent.

The Czech presidency is a largely ceremonial post.

Zeman previously voiced support for President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which sparked outrage among Palestinians and across the Muslim world.

Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem, territory captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as their future capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal capital.