Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s visit to Nigeria has been cancelled, as Abuja announced yesterday that it was unable to provide an adequate reception and programme, including a business forum, according to Czech government spokesman Vaclav Smolka.
Diplomatic sources suggest the move by the Nigerian government may be related to the Czech Republic’s hardline support for Israel at the UN. Israel has faced sharp criticism, especially from non-Western countries, over its sustained aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, launched after a large-scale terrorist attack by Hamas on southern Israel.
“Nigeria has informed us that it is unable to provide an adequate reception and program, including a business forum, so we have agreed to cancel the visit,” Smolka told Czech journalists yesterday. He specified that the announcement from the Nigerian side had come yesterday evening.
Fiala (ODS), who has been on a week-long visit to sub-Saharan Africa since last Friday, will therefore probably stay in Kenya longer than originally planned. He is then scheduled to visit Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The Czech Republic, along with the United States and Israel, was one of 14 countries that voted against the UN General Assembly resolution on 27 October calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The countries that voted against it were particularly critical that the text did not contain a direct condemnation of Hamas for the massacre of Israeli civilians on 7 October. A total of 121 states, including Nigeria, voted for the resolution, the first joint UN response to Israel’s month-long war with Hamas .
The day after the resolution was adopted, Czech Defence Minister Jana Cernochova (ODS) attracted international attention after calling on social media for the Czech Republic to withdraw from the UN over the resolution. Cernochova claimed that the resolution “sides with terrorists”.
Last week, Nigerian Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar reiterated the Nigerian government’s support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, at a meeting with Palestinian Ambassador to Nigeria Abdullah Shawesh. At the same time, Tuggar condemned the killing of civilians and called on both sides of the conflict to stop the fighting, local media reported.
Fiala arrived in Kenya from Addis Ababa, where he held talks with top officials and opened the Czech-Ethiopian business forum on Sunday.
Yesterday, the PM opened the business forum in Nairobi and visited a local museum. He is scheduled to meet Kenyan President William Ruto on Tuesday, followed by a press conference. Subsequently, Fiala is expected to hold talks with Kenyan Defence Minister Aden Duale. The further agenda in Kenya is unclear at the moment due to the cancellation of the afternoon flight to Nigeria.
Planned foreign visits by members of the Czech government or the president have been cancelled several times in the past. These are usually due to health reasons, but the cancellation might also be caused by a worsening security situation, a natural disaster, urgent matters arising in the Czech Republic or in the host country, or a deterioration of bilateral relations.
This happened in 2016, for example, when China cancelled a planned visit from Czech agriculture minister Marian Jurecka (KDU-CSL) without openly disclosing the reasons. However, the media speculated that the main reason was a meeting in Prague between culture minister Daniel Herman and the Tibetan Dalai Lama.
In October 2003, the Palestinian political crisis thwarted a planned trip by Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda (KDU-CSL) to Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. Svoboda visited Palestine and Egypt later, in January 2004.