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Polish official denies US sanctioning over Holocaust law

March 6, 2018
Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's deputy foreign minister has denied reports that the U.S. is punishing Poland over a controversial new Holocaust law.

Bartosz Cichocki conceded Tuesday that Washington has been expressing "concerns and questions" about the law, but that reports of sanctions are untrue.

Polish news portal reported late Monday that the Polish government was told that President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cannot count on any meetings with either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence until Poland changes the law.

Onet said it has seen documents confirming the ultimatum, and reported that the Americans also threatened to block the financing of joint military projects.

The daily Gazeta Wyborcza also reported Tuesday that the two top Polish leaders "will not be invited to the White House," citing unnamed sources.

If true, the warning would represent deterioration in ties between the United States and Poland, NATO allies with a strong relationship going back decades. Just last year U.S. deployed troops to Poland as a buffer against Russia while Trump visited Warsaw, choosing the conservative and pro-U.S. country for one of his first foreign stops as president.

The United States has previously warned Poland that there would be negative consequences if it passed the law, which imposes prison sentences of up to three years for falsely and intentionally attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland.

Poland's nationalist government says the law is meant to protect Poland, a victim of Hitler's Germany, from being accused of crimes it did not commit as a nation. Israeli and U.S. officials, however, fear that it could undermine free speech and academic research into the cases of Polish violence against Jews during World War II.

In late January the U.S. State Department said the law could have "repercussions ... on Poland's strategic interests and relationships."

"If it's true that Americans have introduced sanctions against Poland, then the matter is serious. It could hurt Poland's security," Stanislaw Tyszka, a deputy speaker of the parliament from a small right-wing party, Kuziz '15, said Tuesday.

Government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska stressed that diplomatic channels remain open, noting that other government officials have visited Washington recently and will do so in the near future.

"Bilateral strategic cooperation with the United States is not threatened, diplomatic contacts remain at the current level," Kopcinska said.



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