US hails establishment of Israel-Kosovo ties

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

The US State Department lauds the normalization deal inked by Israel and Kosovo.

“Congratulations to Israel and Kosovo for formally establishing diplomatic relations — a historic day,” spokesman Ned Price tweets.

“When our partners are united, the United States is stronger. Deeper international ties help further peace and stability in the Balkans and Middle East,” he adds.

“The ceremony was virtual, but the establishment of Israel-Kosovo diplomatic relations is very real —congratulations!” tweets Chargé d’Affairs at the US Embassy in Jerusalem Jonathan Shrier.

In a ceremony held over Zoom in Jerusalem and Pristina earlier Monday, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his counterpart from Kosovo, Meliza Haradinaj Stublla, signed a joint declaration establishing ties.

Travel restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of Ben Gurion Airport, made an in-person ceremony impossible. It was the first time Israel established relations with a country virtually.

As part of the agreement, the Muslim-majority territory recognized Jerusalem as the Israel’s capital — putting it at odds with the rest of the Islamic world. The other four countries that have normalized relations with the Jewish state in recent months have not made such a recognition, instead saying that they will open their respective embassies in Tel Aviv. Ashkenazi during the ceremony said he had approved Kosovo’s formal request to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

The decision on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Israel was achieved last September at a summit of Kosovo-Serbia leaders at the White House in the presence of then-US president Donald Trump. At the meeting, Belgrade also agreed to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which it has not done so far.

The Biden administration has expressed its support for such agreements and has pledged to advance the issue as well, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern regarding some of the side agreements the US reached with involved parties that may have led them to agree to normalizing with Israel, such as the sale of F-35 advanced fighter jets to the UAE. Consequently, analysts have speculated that the new administration will tread more slowly on the issue than its predecessor.

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