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Szczerski said that Polish expectations changed after Putin in late December accused Poland of being co-responsible for the outbreak of World War II. Marcin Obara/PAP
Krzysztof Szczerski: "scenario in which Putin is the keynote speaker is unacceptable"
There are no obstacles to Polish President Andrzej Duda's presence at the 5th World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 22-23 if Poland's conditions are fulfilled, Duda's chief aide Krzysztof Szczerski told Polish Radio One on Friday.
Szczerski said Poland had informed Israel about its expectations concerning Duda's visit, stressing that a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin is the keynote speaker is unacceptable for Warsaw.
Radio One raised the subject after the Gazeta Wyborcza daily in its Friday issue wrote that the Polish president would not attend the forum and that the decision had already been made.
Among the reasons behind such a decision, the daily names the fact that the Yad Vashem conference could be seen as an alternative to the Polish ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz on January 27. It also mentions "lack of an adequate forum of expression" for the Polish president, as Putin and his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin are to be the keynote speakers. Additionally, the Yad Vashem ceremonies are co-organised by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, whose statement that Poles "suckled anti-Semitism with their mother's milk" caused outrage in Poland last year.
Asked on the radio whether Andrzej Duda has made his decision, Szczerski said no. "We've been talking with the Israeli side since last autumn, we have presented (...) our expectations concerning the programme of the ceremonies and how we see the role of the Polish president during these ceremonies," Szczerski said, adding that some of the expectations have already been met.
Szczerski also said that Polish expectations changed after Putin in late December accused Poland of being co-responsible for the outbreak of World War II. Putin's words met with protests from a range of countries, including ambassadors of Germany, Great Britain, the United States and Israel, as well as Polish officials and Poland's Jewish community.
"It is obvious that the scenario in which Putin is the keynote speaker, the main guest, and the fact Yad Vashem offers him the possibility of continuing his insulting and deceitful claims about the course and the origins of World War II is unacceptable for us," the presidential aide said.
According to Yad Vashem, some 30 heads of state have confirmed their attendance at the forum, including the presidents of Russia, Germany, Italy and Austria. The event, titled "Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism," is organised by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, under the auspices of the Israeli president.
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