Originally published in
Published: 09.04.20 , 21:14
Kosovo to be first Muslim-majority nation to open embassy in capital; agreements part of normalization deal with U.S.; Netanyahu hails step in rare Shabbat statement, says ‘circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding, more countries are expected to join
Israel and Kosovo have agreed to establish diplomatic ties and Kosovo, along with Serbia, will open embassies in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday.
Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, has never before recognized Israel nor has Israel recognized Kosovo.
Netanyahu’s statement came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump made a similar announcement in Washington, where he met with leaders of Serbia and Kosovo as they agreed to normalize economic ties between them.
“Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in a rare statement issued after the start of Shabbat.
“As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”
Only two countries – the United States and Guatemala – have already opened embassies in Jerusalem.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who with broad international backing want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, as their capital.
The announcement by Trump came after two days of meetings between U.S. administration officials, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. The two leaders agreed to cooperate on a range of economic fronts to attract investment and create jobs.
The 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.
“I’m pleased to announce a truly historic commitment,” Trump said in the Oval Office, standing alongside the two leaders, who signed an economic cooperation agreement. “Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization.”
Trump said Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July.
Belgrade’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 U.S. 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 is the second Muslim-majority country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in weeks.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates last month agreed to normalize diplomatic ties in an accord Trump helped broker.
On Monday, a plane from the fleet of Israeli flag-carrier El Al made the first ever direct commercial flight from Israel to the UAE.
Flight LY971, a nod to the UAE’s international dialling code, carried a delegation of Israeli and American dignitaries and businesspeople for talks with Emirati officials.
The flight was given permission to fky through Saudi Arabian airspace, another first for an Israeli plane and a sign of Saudi approval for the normalization agreement.
On the plane’s return journey on Tuesday, Flight LY972, which denotes Israel’s international dialling code, also flew through Saudi airspace.