Poland shuns Israel talks over ‘racism’

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Poland shuns Israel talks over ‘racism’

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Middle East summit in Warsaw, February 2019Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (L) met Mr Netanyahu in Warsaw this month

A summit of central European leaders in Israel has been cancelled because of an Israel-Poland row over the Holocaust.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said there would just be bilateral talks in Jerusalem and Poland is staying away.

Poland withdrew after a suggestion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Poles had been complicit in the Holocaust.

Those comments were “racist and unacceptable”, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews, mostly in Poland.

Israel later clarified that Mr Netanyahu had been referring to “Poles” but not to the Polish nation.

He had been quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust.

The meeting hosted by Israel was meant to bring together the four-nation Visegrad Group: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

In Poland’s absence, the three remaining prime ministers will still visit Israel for talks, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

“It will not be called Visegrad, because this entails the presence of all four,” an Israeli spokesperson said. “It’s going to be a summit with Visegrad members.”

On Sunday Mr Morawiecki pulled out, saying Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz would go instead, but on Monday Poland pulled out of the summit completely.

The Polish government says cancellation of the visit is “an unequivocal signal to other governments and international opinion that historical truth is fundamental”.

About six million Polish citizens died in World War Two, of whom about three million were Jews.

The Nazis built many of their most notorious death camps in Poland after occupying the country at the beginning of the war in 1939.

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