Prime Minister Peter Fiala’s visit to Nigeria has been cancelled. According to Czech government spokesman Václav Smolka, Abuja announced on Monday that it was unable to provide an adequate reception and program, including a business forum. According to diplomatic sources, the Nigerian move may be related to Czech support for Israel in the UN. Jerusalem has faced growing criticism, especially from Muslim countries, over airstrikes in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, which it launched after a bloody attack by the Hamas movement 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. He clarified that the announcement from the Nigerian side came on Monday evening. Fiala, who has been on a week-long visit to sub-Saharan Africa since Friday evening, will probably stay in Kenya longer than originally planned. He then plans to visit Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The Czech Republic, along with the United States and Israel, was one of the 14 countries that on October 27 voted against the UN General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The states that voted in this way were particularly bothered by the fact that the text does not contain a direct condemnation of Hamas for the massacre of Israeli civilians on October 7. 121 countries, including Nigeria, voted to adopt the resolution, which is the first joint UN response to Israel’s new war with the Hamas movement.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar reiterated the Nigerian government’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue last week during a meeting with the Palestinian ambassador to Nigeria, Abdullah Shavesh. At the same time, he condemned the killing of civilians and called on both sides of the conflict to stop fighting, local media reported. “It doesn’t matter who is doing the violence. Nigeria is against violence and as far as the current situation in Gaza is concerned, Nigeria has voted to stop the fighting. That is our position and it will remain,” the minister said.
According to Bžoch (ANO), African countries are divided in their opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If support for Palestine prevails in any of the countries, and our representatives take pictures at pro-Israeli demonstrations, its approach is understandable. They do not want the security situation worsened due to the visit,” he said. In this context, he recalled the news about the cancellation of the trip of Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela (STAN) to Saudi Arabia last week.
MP Jiří Kobza from the opposition SPD movement said that Nigeria has made it clear what it thinks of the prime minister”. “In quotes, the successes of our foreign policy undoubtedly play an important role in this. I think that the minister’s speeches certainly contributed to shaping the opinions of Nigerians about the Czech Republic,” he recalled the recent calls of Defense Minister Jana Černochová (ODS) for the Czech Republic to withdraw from the United Nations.
Committee chairman Marek Ženíšek (TOP 09) wrote to ČTK from Tel Aviv that he had no information about the reason for the cancellation of Fial’s trip. In Israel, Ženíšek is participating on behalf of the Czech Republic in a three-day solidarity mission organized by the non-profit non-governmental organization ELNET (European Leadership Network).
Fiala arrived in Kenya on Sunday from Addis Ababa, where he held talks with top officials and opened the Czech-Ethiopian business forum. On Monday, the Prime Minister launched a business forum in Nairobi and visited a local museum. He is scheduled to meet with Kenyan President William Ruto on Tuesday, followed by a press conference. Subsequently, Fiala should also negotiate with the Kenyan Minister of Defense, Aden Dual. The next program in Kenya due to the canceled afternoon flight to Nigeria is unclear at this time.
In the past, it happened several times that the planned visit of a Czech member of the government or the president abroad had to be cancelled. Health reasons predominate, but the cause was also a worsened security situation, a natural disaster, new urgent matters in the Czech Republic or in the host country, but also the deterioration of mutual relations. This happened, for example, in 2016, when China canceled the planned trip of Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurečka. Beijing did not disclose the reasons, and the media speculated that the cause was a meeting between then Minister of Culture Daniel Herman and the Tibetan Dalai Lama in Prague.
In October 2003, the Palestinian political crisis thwarted the trip of Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda to the Arab states. The minister was to visit Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. Svoboda finally visited Palestine and Egypt in January 2004.