Prague, Jan 3 (CTK) – The Czech Foreign Ministry has long warned against travelling to Iraq and is monitoring the situation in the country after the U.S. attack killing Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Stichova told CTK today.
Some 40 Czech soldiers are deployed in Iraq. They are all right and are fulfilling their tasks, the Defence Ministry said today.
Five Czechs are now registered in Iraq in the DROZD database of Czech citizens travelling abroad, in which people can register voluntarily. Other Czech citizens are working at the embassy in Baghdad and the general consulate in Erbil.
Another four Czech citizens are registered in Iran via Drozd. There are hundreds of Czechs staying in its neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.
“We have long warned of travelling to Iraq. There is an unstable situation in the country where people face the threat of kidnapping and have a limited access to basic health care,” Stichova said.
The Foreign Ministry’s priority is to provide all necessary information for Czech citizens either in the Drozd database or on its website, she added.
“The key issue is naturally the safety of the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil. This is why we are monitoring the situation and will inform citizens about further steps,” she noted.
In connection with the killing of Soleimani, the Foreign Ministry has also issued a warning for visitors to Iran, saying mass demonstrations are expected there.
“We call on the travellers to avoid crowded places, not to take pictures and record big gatherings and follow all measures and recommendations of the local security forces,” the ministry said on its website.
The office also recommends that people do not travel to Iran’s border and coastal regions.
Czech soldiers are deployed in a mission in Iraq.
“All Czech soldiers operating within international forces in Iraq are all right, we are in touch with them. They keep fulfilling their tasks. We are monitoring the situation continuously to be able to react promptly if need be. The individual local commands have taken standard security measures,” the Defence Ministry tweeted.
The Czech military has sent a chemical warfare training unit to Iraq. Besides, Czech military police are training Iraqi police officers.
The mandate for the Czech troops’ deployment in Iraq expires this year. The government will seek its extension, Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar (for ANO) said.
The U.S. military killed Soleimani and some more persons, including an influential commander of the Iraqi militias, in Baghdad last night. The attack stirred up a sharp response in Tehran and Baghdad. Other countries disapprove of it, too. Iran and its allied militias have threatened with retaliation.
The United States, via its embassy in Baghdad, called for an immediate evacuation of U.S. citizens from Iraq today, a few hours after a missile attack in Baghdad, in which Soleimani died. The U.S. Department of State also announced that the consular services were interrupted over the Tuesday attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek (CSSD) said the killing of Soleimani had further complicated the complex situation in the Middle East and threatened the fight against international terrorism.
Culture Minister and former foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) openly criticised the U.S. attack, while some centre-right opposition politicians, such as MEP Jan Zahradil (Civic Democrats, ODS), supported it.