Kosovo, Israel establish diplomatic ties

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo and Israel formally established diplomatic ties on Monday in a ceremony held digitally due to the pandemic lockdown.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and her Israeli counterpart, Gabriel Ashkenazi, held a virtual ceremony to sign the documents in their respective capitals.

“Today we are making history. We are establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo,” said Ashkenazi.

“We mark a new chapter in the historical bond between our countries,” Haradinaj-Stublla responded in her speech.

The decision on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Israel was achieved last September as part of a summit at the White House when Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic agreed to normalize economic ties in the presence of then-President Donald Trump.

Both Pristina and Jerusalem thanked Washington for its efforts to bridge the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Speaking in France after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Vucic said he’s not happy with the Israel-Kosovo agreement and that it could hurt Serbia’s future ties with the Jewish state.

Serbia does not recognize its former province of Kosovo as a separate state.

At the Washington summit, Belgrade also agreed to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, something it hasn’t done so far.

Ashkenazi said “Israel wants a stable Balkans,” adding that, “I consider Serbia as a close and significant partner in the Balkans.”

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the U.S. embassy there in May 2018.

It encouraged other countries to do the same but was widely criticized by the Palestinians and many in Europe because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Kosovo’s Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after a U.S.-led 78-day NATO 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.

Israel becomes the 117th country to recognize Kosovo, according to Haradinaj-Stublla.

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AP writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

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