Czech-US missile-shield talks to last beyond NATO summitMarch 10th, 2008 - 2:21 am ICT by admin
Prague, March 10 (DPA) Czech and US negotiators are to extend their talks on the placement of a US missile-shield radar base on Czech soil beyond the upcoming NATO summit, Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova said Sunday. The next round of talks on the so-called Status of Forces Agreement that defines rules for the deployment of US personnel in the Czech Republic was planned for April 9-11, or after the NATO summit to be held in Bucharest April 2-4, the minister said.
“It is out of question for the second treaty to be finished,” she told public broadcaster Czech Television.
Her statement cooled earlier hopes by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek that the agreement be finished before the summit.
Topolanek recently said the completion of the main diplomatic treaty is around the corner.
Washington asked Warsaw and Prague to host 10 interceptor missiles and a tracking radar respectively as a part of its missile defence system against potential long-range missiles from so-called rogue states such as Iran.
The plan has infuriated Russia, which has threatened to aim its arsenal at the two formerly central European Soviet satellites, now members of NATO and the European Union.
While the Polish officials have hinted that they would prefer to wait before making the final decision until after the US presidential election in November, the project’s supporters within the Czech cabinet appear to be hurrying to sign the agreements.
The Polish and Czech premiers agreed to coordinate their moves in January, but recent Czech statements suggest that Prague no longer wishes to wait for Warsaw, analysts said.
After returning from a recent US visit, Topolanek criticized Poland for demanding military modernisation in exchange for the US base.
Top Czech negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar, who said earlier that the two bases are “connected vessels,” told reporters in Brussels Thursday that the US radar would enhance the Czech Republic’s security even without the silo in Poland.
The cabinet is not united on the matter. The defence minister said Sunday that the talks should “return someplace” if Poland were to withdraw from the project “because that situation would be significantly new”.