Kosovo has officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem after becoming the first Muslim-majority territory to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.
The move was in exchange for Israel recognising Kosovo, a major victory for Pristina’s efforts to gain full global recognition of the independence it declared in 2008 following a war with Serbia in the 1990s.
The embassy was opened during a brief ceremony during which Kosovo’s flag was raised in front of the building in Jerusalem, the Kosovo foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it has formally opened its embassy to Israel in the disputed city of Jerusalem.
A statement by Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the move was made after the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel on Feb. 1 and a Kosovo-Serbia summit held at the White House in September.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora announces that the Kosovo Embassy in the State of Israel, with headquarters in Jerusalem, officially has been opened,” said the statement.
Serbia has refused to acknowledge the independence of its former province, so while Kosovo has now been recognised by much of the western world, its rejection by Belgrade’s key allies Russia and China has locked it out of the United Nations.
Israel had been another key holdout until last month, when it established diplomatic ties with Kosovo. In exchange, Kosovo followed the controversial lead of the former US president Donald Trump by recognising Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
Trump had discussed the Israel-Kosovo deal in Washington during economic talks with Serbia and Kosovo in September. Kosovo’s decision prompted criticism not only from Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey, but also from Europe.
The status of Jerusalem remains one of the biggest flashpoints in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv.
The new embassy of Kosovo is situated in downtown Jerusalem in the western part of the city. There was no opening ceremony, and Kosovo said it didn’t send a delegation to inaugurate the embassy because of coronavirus restrictions.
With Sunday’s announcement, Kosovo becomes the third country with an embassy in the holy city. The U.S., under President Donald Trump, was the first country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, followed by Guatemala.
Several other countries have either opened or pledged to open lower-level diplomatic offices in the city, including a mission opened last week by the Czech Republic.
Albin Kurti, Kosovo’s prime minister-designate, has found himself in a difficult diplomatic position before taking up his post after pressure from Turkey, a close ally of the new Western Balkan country to change its mind about the Jerusalem location.
Kurti has said that “the place where the embassy will be located is to be considered following checking of the documentation of the outgoing government.”
Kosovo’s acting foreign minister, Besnik Tahiri, said that opening the embassy in Jerusalem isn’t connected to the change of Cabinet, adding that “it is clear for all the parties that the recognition of the state of Israel and the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem is one of the most important events during the recent years,” according to a statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Kosovo that the move could damage future relations with his country.
In one of Europe’s most intractable disputes, Serbia has rejected Kosovo’s independence since it broke away in a 1998-99 war that was ended only by a Nato bombing campaign against Serbian troops.
Both Kosovo and Serbia face mounting pressure from the west to resolve the impasse, seen as crucial to either side joining the EU. More than 13,000 people died in the war, mostly Kosovo Albanians, who form a majority in the former province.
Serbia committed to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but may review its pledge. / Compiled by argumentum.al