FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday July 6, 2017, Poland's President Andrzej Duda, right, and U.S President Donald Trump attend a news conference at Royal Castle, in Warsaw. According to online news reports published Tuesday March 6, 2018, the Polish President Andrzej Duda cannot count on any meetings with either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence until Poland changes their controversial new Holocaust law. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, FILE)

Polish official denies US sanctioning over Holocaust law

March 06, 2018 - 11:17 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denied reports that the U.S. is punishing Poland over a controversial new Holocaust law.

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

Polish news portal Onet.pl 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 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 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."

Poland's Constitutional Court is now examining the law, leaving many observers hopeful that 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."

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