Serbia to open ‘official state office’ in Jerusalem as sign of ‘respect’ to Jews
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Serbia to open ‘official state office’ in Jerusalem as sign of ‘respect’ to Jews

Addressing AIPAC convention in DC, President Vučić stops short of announcing embassy move, says he’s ‘trying to find the best possible way to do something officially in Jerusalem’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, right, speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Washington, DC, March 2, 2020 (Dimitrije Goll/Presidency of Serbia)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, right, speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Washington, DC, March 2, 2020 (Dimitrije Goll/Presidency of Serbia)

Serbia is planning to open an “official state office” in Jerusalem, the country’s president announced Tuesday, joining a small number of countries that have diplomatic missions in the city.

“We are in a very complex situation in our region. And you should understand all the difficulties we are facing. But I want to say that we’re trying to find the best possible way to do something officially in Jerusalem,” Aleksandar Vučić told the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC.

“And we are going to open very soon not only an office of our Chamber of Commerce. But together with our Chamber of Commerce — the official state office in Jerusalem with Serbian official flag alongside with our embassy in Tel Aviv,” he said in his address. “That’s our way of showing respect to Jewish people.”

Israeli leaders welcomed the announcement.

President Reuven Rivlin thanked his Serbian counterpart, whom he called a “dear friend.” for the plans to open state representation in the capital. “Another sign of the strong and deep relations between our countries and peoples. May many others follow,” he tweeted.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz also took to Twitter to congratulate the Balkan country’s leader for his declaration. “The Serbian flag will join other flags already present in our capital,” he cheered.

Israel’s ambassador in Belgrade, Alona Fisher Kamm, said that various countries are emulating the US, which on May 14, 2018 opened an embassy in Jerusalem.

“Since [US President Donald] Trump’s declaration on the embassy move, Israel has seen a number of countries moving in the same positive direction,” she said. “We expected from our good friends, like Serbia, to join these countries. President Vučić’s declaration is a positive and significant step forward in our bilateral relations.”

Even Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who met with Vučić at the sidelines of this week’s AIPAC convention, praised Serbia’s planned move.

Israel is one of the few countries around the world that does not recognize Kosovo as a country, fearing the example that would be set by acknowledging a state that declares independence unilaterally. In January 2018, Kosovo said it would have voted against a UN resolution that condemned the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

So far, only the US and Guatemala have their embassies in Jerusalem. A number of countries, including Brazil, the Czech Republic and Australia have trade or cultural centers in the city. Only Hungary and Honduras said their offices in Jerusalem have diplomatic status.

Earlier this week, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, said he would soon appoint an ambassador to Israel, the first from his country in some 20 years.

The envoy would be posted in Tel Aviv, he clarified, adding that he sees no reason why the DRC would not open a “commercial section” in Jerusalem.

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