Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that not only would Kosovo recognize Israel but it would open an embassy in Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority nation to do so.
Earlier Friday, Serbia announced that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem. The moves come as part of US-brokered discussions to normalize economic ties between Belgrade and Pristina.
After two days of meetings with Trump administration officials, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti agreed to cooperate on a range of economic fronts to attract investment and create jobs. The White House announcement provided US President Donald Trump with a diplomatic win ahead of the November presidential election and furthers his administration’s push to improve Israel’s international standing.
Netanyahu hailed the moves and said Israel would establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that during a meeting between Trump and Hoti, the president called Netanyahu and congratulated the two leaders on the decision to establish full diplomatic relations.
According to the statement, Hoti also announced that he would open an embassy in Jerusalem.
“Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority nation to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I said in recent days the circle of peace is expanding and more nations are expected to join,” Netanyahu said.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci confirmed Prisitna’s intention, saying he welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement “about the genuine intention to recognize Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations.”
” Kosovo will keep its promise to place its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem,” he tweeted.
I welcome the announcement of Israeli PM @netanyahu about the genuine intention to recognize #Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations. Kosovo will keep its promise to place its diplomatic mission in #Jerusalem ????????????????????????
— Hashim Thaçi (@HashimThaciRKS) September 4, 2020
Trump said Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July.
Trump later tweeted “Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!”
Kosovo, notably, is in Europe.
Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
Serbia’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nod to both Israel and the United States. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.
The administration 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, a predominantly Muslim country, has never before recognized Israel nor has Israel recognized Kosovo.
In all, a total of four countries now recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including the US and Guatemala. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as their would-be capital.
After the announcement, Netanyahu thanked Trump for his role in continuing to further Israel’s diplomatic standing.
“I thank my friend President Vucic of Serbia for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassy,” Netanyahu said. ” I also want to thank my friend Donald Trump for his contribution to this achievement.”
A statement from Netanyahu’s office hailed Serbia for being the first European nation to agree to move its embassy and said efforts continued to convince other European nations to also do so.
Netanyahu said that following discussions held in recent days among the Foreign Ministry, National Security Council and others, it was decided that Israel will establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo.
The gestures to Israel are part of the Trump administration’s push to improve the Jewish state’s international standing, which has included forceful denunciations of criticism of Israel at the United Nations and in other international venues. Most recently, the administration brokered a deal for Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations. That was followed by the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE, with neighboring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to allow such flights to pass through their airspace. Additional Arab states, including Sudan, Bahrain and Oman, have been identified as countries that may soon also normalize relations with Israel.
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 in the 1990s.