Israeli, Polish Foreign Ministers Meet, Seek to Mend Ties

Warsaw (AP) —

By Hamodia Staff

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen(left) Polish Foriegn Minister Zbigniew Rau(right) (Israeli Polish Ambassador’s office)

The Israeli and Polish foreign ministers are meeting Wednesday as the two nations work to resolve a dispute that has led to a cancellation of Israeli youth trips to Poland, and the removal of Israel’s Polish Ambassador, highlighting a years-long chill between the two countries.

The visit by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is the first at that level since 2018, and Poland’s Foreign Ministry says it will be followed by Israeli President Yitzchak Herzog attending observances next month for the 80th anniversary of the World War II Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Herzog’s office had no comment.

Wednesday’s meeting, particularly if followed by a visit from Herzog, would signal a thawing in ties after years of tensions marked by a withdrawal of ambassadors and Poland’s Prime Minister canceling a planned visit to Israel in 2019. Israel has since returned an ambassador to Poland, but there is still no Polish ambassador in Israel.

“We are opening a new page in relations with Poland,” Cohen said. “The return of the Polish ambassador to Israel, along with the return of the youth delegations to Poland, are important moves to strengthen relations between the countries.”

Cohen discussed the Iranian threat as well, saying that it’s an area where the two countries can find common ground. “Poland is a very significant factor in Europe today and together with it we will continue to advance issues of political importance, such as the most effective ways to deal with the Iranian threat, whose terrorist metastases are already evident in Europe,” he said.

The two allies have seen ties deteriorate in recent years due to disagreements rooted in the Holocaust and how to remember Polish involvement in the killing of Jews by Nazi forces during World War II.

The Polish-Israeli dispute led to an explosion of anti-Semitic rhetoric in 2018 on social media and Polish state media, but physical violence is extremely rare, making the country safer than many in Western Europe.

Cohen and Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau are due to sign an agreement on Wednesday that should help settle the issue of the armed guards, an adviser to the Polish President said on Tuesday.

The official, Marcin Przydacz, said the new agreement stipulates that bodyguards with visible weapons would not accompany Israeli tours.

“This agreement is foreseen so that the presence of Israeli security agents with weapons does not cause unhealthy emotions around these trips,” he said. He said that in cases where protection might be deemed necessary, the Polish side will be responsible for it.

“We want to build a positive message for Israeli youth, so that Poland is associated with a place where it is safe and peaceful,” Przydacz said.

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