Kosovo, Israel To Formally Establish Relations Following U.S.-Brokered Deal

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Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla
Kosovo and Israel will sign an agreement to formally establish diplomatic relations on February 1, months after a U.S.-brokered deal on mutual recognition.

As part of the agreement, Muslim-majority Kosovo will open an embassy in Jerusalem.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and her Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi will sign the agreement virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have indicated the so-called Zoom diplomacy will be a historic first of two nations establishing relations virtually through a combination of video communication, scanning documents, and emailing the agreement, Walla! News reported.

“Recognition by Israel is one of the greatest achievements for Kosovo, coming at a key moment for us, thanks to the United States of America, our common and eternal ally,” Haradinaj-Stublla said in a statement on January 29 ahead of the signing ceremony.

In September, former U.S. President Donald Trump gathered the leaders of Kosovo and its rival Serbia at a White House summit meant to work towards long-stalled normalization of ties between the Balkan neighbors.

The summit was somewhat overshadowed by a White House announcement that Kosovo had agreed to recognize Israel.

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

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

The decision prompted criticism from Palestinians, many Muslim-majority countries, and most states in Europe concerned that it would undermine prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China have not.

Kosovo 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.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Walla! News

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