In a controversial move, the Czech Republic on Thursday opened a diplomatic office in Jerusalem, affiliated to its embassy in Tel Aviv.

While stopping short of shifting the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem, the move got clear approval from Israel, with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi attending the opening along with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Ashkenazi welcomed the opening of the office, saying it was “further evidence of the depth of friendship with the people and government of the Czech Republic.”

He added: “I would like to thank the Czech Republic for leading change in Europe towards the city of Jerusalem, and for the association with Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to take part in the opening, but he was absent due to his wife’s illness, according to local media.

Palestinian leaders oppose the step and have called on the Czech Republic to reverse the decision.

European Union member states had refused to move their embassies to Jerusalem pending a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the issue of the holy city.

Among EU states, only Hungary also has diplomatic offices in Jerusalem.

With the exception of the US and Guatemala, countries worldwide have declined to shift their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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