Deputy FM wants to talk 'facts and rational arguments' with Israel

A Polish deputy foreign minister has said he is ready for talks with Israel over contested restitution legislation if he hears "rational arguments."

Pawel Jablonski said that so far there have only been accusations that Poland is refusing to compensate Holocaust victims.

Israel reacted strongly to legislation passed by Poland's Sejm (lower house of parliament) last week amending the administrative procedure code so that courts may consider appeals regarding administrative decisions on property only if they were made within the previous 30 years. Critics say that would put a time limit on claims for restitution of Jewish properties.

The new rules were described by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as "a disgrace" and he said they would seriously harm Polish-Israeli relations.

"We are willing to talk, including the disputed matters, but those talks must be based on facts," Jablonski said on a private TV station on Tuesday. "If they are removed from the facts, if they start from that sort of accusation, it is hard to conduct any talks," he added.

According to Jablonski, facts may not have a very strong influence on politicians in Israel who believe - for various internal reasons - that fuelling a conflict with Poland is profitable for them.

"I have the impression that that is the cause of the conflict that erupted at the end of last week, that they are simply internal political goals," he said.

He added that the Israeli foreign minister was not kindly disposed towards Poland but expressed surprise that he accused Poland of Holocaust denial, taking the legislation entirely out of context.

"If we are accused of erasing the memory of the Holocaust, the obligation of every Polish politician is to remind people of what the historical truth was," Jablonski said.

Asked whether Poland might step back from the amendment to the administrative procedure code, Jablonski said: "If we hear rational arguments of why the law should be changed, the timescales should be lengthened or shortened, I am ready to talk."