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Pristina hails 'historic moment' in Balkan country’s history

Kosovo says it will formally establish diplomatic ties with Israel on Feb. 1

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

US President Donald Trump signs a document as Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (L)  sign an agreement on opening economic relations, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 4, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
US President Donald Trump signs a document as Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (L) sign an agreement on opening economic relations, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 4, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s Foreign Minister on Friday said a formal ceremony will be held next week to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, a “historic moment” in the Balkan country’s history.

Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla said she and her Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi would hold a virtual ceremony on Feb. 1.

“Recognition by Israel is one of the greatest achievements for Kosovo, coming at a key moment for us, thanks to the United States of America, our common and eternal ally,” she said.

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.

The new 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, Nov. 3, 2020. (Odd Andersen/Pool via AP)

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.

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.

Pristina 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, indeed, 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.

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