WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The U.S. and Polish governments denied reports Tuesday that the U.S. is punishing Poland over a new Holocaust speech law by freezing high-level diplomatic contacts and blocking funding for joint military projects.
Bartosz Cichocki, deputy foreign minister in Poland, conceded that the U.S. government has been expressing “concerns and questions” about the law, but said media reports of sanctions were untrue.
Later in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also denied the claims.
“The reports that allege any kind of a suspension in security cooperation or high-level dialogue, all of that is simply false. Poland is a close NATO ally, that will remain, that hasn’t changed,” Nauert told reporters.
“We are not going to abandon our security commitments to Poland. Poland is a close NATO ally. But I want to be clear we have concerns about that legislation, and we have made our concerns very clear,” Nauert said.
Polish news portal Onet.pl reported Monday that the Polish government was told President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cannot count on meetings with either U.S. President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence until Poland changes the law.
Onet said it saw Polish documents confirming the ultimatum, and reported that the Americans also threatened to block the financing of joint military projects.
The United States has previously warned Poland that there would be repercussions for Poland’s “strategic interests” 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 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.
Poland’s Constitutional Court is now examining the law, leaving many observers hopeful it might require lawmakers to change it and end the diplomatic dispute that broke out in late January. Last week Polish officials were in Jerusalem and Washington trying to explain the law and hear the views of Israeli and U.S. partners.
Artur Lompart, director of the press office of Poland’s Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press in an emailed statement that the ministry “will not comment on media reports about classified or official correspondence.”
However, he said that Polish diplomats tried to explain in “intensive talks” with Americans and others that “the proposed changes pose no threat to freedom of speech and research, which is unequivocally enshrined in the Polish Constitution.”
“It must be strongly noted that the language of ultimatum does not appear in Polish-U.S. talks,” Lompart said, adding that “strategic bilateral cooperation is not at risk, with diplomatic contacts kept as usual.”
Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.