Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appeared to react with some puzzlement on Friday when US President Donald Trump announced, in the Oval Office, that his country had committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem in less than a year.
Video footage of a signing ceremony showed Trump announcing that the embassy would be moved in July, prompting Vucic, sitting to his right, to leaf through the agreement he had just signed.
He then looks to his right — apparently at a standing aide — and touches his forehead in what seems like bemusement before smoothing his hair.
Despite rampant speculation on social media that the Serbian leader did not know what he had just signed on to, he has indicated that he indeed plans to move his country’s embassy to the Holy City.
The move came as part of US-brokered deal to normalize economic ties between Serbia and Kosovo that will also see the latter recognize Israel.
The White House announcement provided Trump with a diplomatic win ahead of the November presidential election and furthers his administration’s push to improve Israel’s international standing.
“Truly, it is historic,” Trump said, alongside the two leaders in the Oval Office. “I look forward to going to both countries in the not too distant future.”
Serbia’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nod to both Israel and the US, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved its 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.
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.
Agencies contributed to this report.