Israel and Kosovo Establish Full Diplomatic Ties – Through Zoom

Kosovo is third country, and first Muslim-majority one, to open embassy in Jerusalem ■ Deal includes Kosovo recognizing Hezbollah as terror organization, and pledged to begin process of retrieving Jewish property looted in Holocaust

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi holds up an agreement signed establishing relations with Kosovo, February 1, 2021.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi holds up an agreement signed establishing relations with Kosovo, February 1, 2021.Credit: Israel Foreign Ministry
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Israel and Kosovo established full diplomatic relations on Monday for the first time since the Muslim-majority country unilaterally announced its independence from Serbia in 2008.

Kosovo is to be the third country – and the first Muslim-majority one – to open an embassy in Jerusalem. At this point, Israel will not open an embassy in Kosovo, but will appoint an ambassador.

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As part of the agreement, Kosovo will recognize the militant Hezbollah group based in Lebanon as a terror organization, and it has pledged to begin the process of retrieving Jewish property that was looted during the Holocaust.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Kosovan counterpart, Meliza Haradinaj, signed the agreement, each from his own office, in a ceremony broadcast over Zoom. In addition, the designated building for the Kosovo embassy in Jerusalem, which is set to open in a few weeks, was unveiled.

"Israel has followed Kosovo's development since its establishment," Ashkenazi said in the ceremony. "During the difficult days of your war, Israel treated Kosovar refugees and wounded – more than 100 Kosovar children were brought to Israel to study. We know the price of war."

It was the first time Israel established diplomatic relations with another country online. The event was attended U.S. Embassy's Charge d’Affaires Jonathan Shrier and the American ambassador to Kosovo.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price congratulated Israel and Kosovo for their "historic" agreement, adding: "When our partners are united, the United States is stronger. Deeper international ties help further peace and stability in the Balkans and Middle East."

Israel had refrained from recognizing Kosovo since 2008, both in order to safeguard relations with Serbia and due to concerns that such recognition would serve as a precedent for Palestinian demands.

Israel agreed to establish ties in early September, after Serbia and Kosovo signed an economic normalization deal. As part of the agreement with Israel, which was brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump, Kosovo announced its intention to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, while Serbia declared its intention to relocate its Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem by July.

Ben Samuels contributed to this report.

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