U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that Serbia has committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and that Kosovo and Israel had agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations.
Trump, speaking in the Oval Office before a meeting with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, said the two countries have agreed to normalize economic ties, hailing what he called a "major breakthrough" more than a decade after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbian President Aleksander Vuči announced Friday that Serbia will move its embassy to Jerusalem by July 2021, and that it will open a representative office until then.
Though Serbia is not a member of the European Union, this marks the first time a European country is opening an embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump is presiding over talks between Kosovo and Serbia in what some say is an attempt to present another diplomatic achievement ahead of the U.S. election in November.
In April, the Guardian reported that ousted Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti blamed Trump's ambassador, Richard Grenell, of the deal with Serbia as a boon for the U.S. president.
Trump called Netanyahu during his meeting on Friday with Kosovo's prime minister, Avdullah Huti, and congratulated the two leaders for their decision. Huti also said that Kosovo will open an embassy in Jerusalem.
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Netanyahu said following the conversation that Kosovo will be the "First country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I have said in recent days, the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is widening and other nations are expected to join it."
Earlier on Friday, Netanyahu thanked Serbian President Aleksandar Vuči for the "decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer to it his country's embassy. We will proceed with efforts so that other European nations move their embassies to Jerusalem."
In recent years Israel has been in talks with Kosovo about opening an office for economic interests in Tel Aviv to advance investment and trade with the Balkan state. There are currently no official diplomatic ties between Israel and Kosovo, and Israel refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence, even though many other countries – including the United States – have done so.
A basic agreement was reached in August 2017, but only now has the process begun.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan tweeted that establishing ties with Kosovo is "another breakthrough with a Muslim country building relations with Israel. After the United Arab Emirates and Kosovo, I believe more Muslim and Arab countries will choose peace, and leave the Palestinians isolated." He added, "This seems to be what will cause the future Palestinian leadership to make concessions for peace."
Erdan added, "I congratulate President Trump and the prime minister on the major achievement. Following U.S. overtures, Serbia and Kosovo will open embassies in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and there is no doubt that other countries will do the same."