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Israel and Kosovo to establish ties Monday via virtual ceremony

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will hold event with Kosovar counterpart, after deal brokered by Trump White House in September

The foreign minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Meliza Haradinaj Stublla, speaks during a press conference with her German counterpart at the Federal Foreign Office, in Berlin, November 3, 2020. (Odd Andersen/Pool via AP)
The foreign minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Meliza Haradinaj Stublla, speaks during a press conference with her German counterpart at the Federal Foreign Office, in Berlin, November 3, 2020. (Odd Andersen/Pool via AP)

Israel’s and Kosovo’s foreign ministers will hold a virtual ceremony Monday to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Travel restrictions — including the closure of Ben Gurion Airport — meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus rendered an in-person ceremony impossible.

It will be the first time Israel establishes relations with a country virtually.

After Kosovar Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi sign two cooperation agreements — one to set their diplomatic relations and the other relating to the activities of Israel’s international development agency Mashav — they will send each other copies via email, each to be signed by their counterpart, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The ceremony will end with the unveiling of a sign that will hang at the entrance to the future Kosovar embassy in Jerusalem.

The United States will be represented virtually by its State Department representative to the Balkan region, Matthew Palmer, who will speak at the ceremony.

Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti sits at a desk as he attends a signing ceremony and meeting with US President Donald Trump and the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic in the Oval Office of the White House on September 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

The virtual ceremony will be broadcast on the Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page.

Kosovo will open its embassy in Jerusalem in the future, making it the third country after the US and Guatemala to open an embassy in Israel’s capital. Other countries, like Honduras, have pledged to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.

Kosovo has a property in central Jerusalem that is going through the regular approval process to become an embassy.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China have not. The ongoing deadlock and Serbia’s unwillingness to recognize Kosovo have kept tensions simmering and prevented full stabilization of the Balkan region after the bloody wars of the 1990s.

Kosovo had not recognized Israel so far not because its Muslim majority was opposed to it, but because Israel had not recognized Kosovo yet, either. Ironically, Israel refused to recognize Kosovo because it did not want to support a unilateral declaration of statehood, which Jerusalem feared could create a dangerous precedent followed by the Palestinians.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci places flowers in Pristina, May 23, 2013, on the commemorative plaque remembering Kosovo Jews that perished in Holocaust, at the site where the last synagogue of Kosovo stood until 1963. (Armend Nimani/AFP)

The decision on mutual recognition between Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel was achieved last September at a summit of Kosovo-Serbia leaders at the White House in the presence of then-President Donald Trump.

At the meeting Belgrade also agreed to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, something it hasn’t done so far.

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.

Washington has encouraged other countries to do the same but has been widely criticized by the Palestinians and many in Europe because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Kosovo’s Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

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