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Kosovo becomes first Muslim nation to open Jerusalem embassy 

Third nation to establish diplomatic headquarters in Israel's capital following the United States and Guatemala

Formal opening of the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem, March 14, 2021 (Photo: Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)

The Republic of Kosovo became the first European and Muslim-majority country to open an official embassy in Israel’s capital Jerusalem on Sunday.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo was facilitated by the former Trump administration as part of the wider Abraham Accords, which also produced normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. 

Approximately half the size of Israel or New Jersey, Kosovo is a tiny landlocked country in southeastern Europe with a population of approximately 2 million people. The diplomatic decision is a reciprocal move following Israel’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence, which was declared in 2009. Following an armed conflict with neighboring Serbia in the 1990s, Kosovo has been eagerly seeking international recognition for its national sovereignty aspirations. 

To date, almost half of the United Nation’s member states still do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. This includes international powers such as Russia, China, India, Brazil, Spain and Mexico. By recognizing Kosovo, Jerusalem joins the U.S., Canada, Australia, most of Europe and Japan.

In a tweet, Kosovar Ambassador Ines Demiri welcomed the opening of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem. 

"A truly proud and historic moment for Kosovo-Israel relations. The greatest honor of my life is to have this opportunity to open the embassy and proudly serve my country in Israel,” Demiri said. 

In an official statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it "warmly welcomes the opening of the Embassy of Kosovo in Jerusalem today, a natural development of the relations and a realization of the Washington agreement."

However, embassy reciprocity does not seem to be in the cards just yet. Israel has a nonresident ambassador to Kosovo, but currently does not have any plans to open a physical embassy in Kosovo. 

Turkey recently expressed its opposition to Kosovo’s plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Turkey, a military and economic regional power, warned Kosovo that it could undermine bilateral relations between Turkey and Kosovo. It was therefore initially unclear whether tiny Kosovo would be able to withstand international pressure and press ahead with its decision to locate its embassy in Jerusalem.

To date, only the United States, Guatemala and Kosovo maintain their embassies in Jerusalem. All other countries that have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state maintain embassies in Tel Aviv. Hungary and the Czech Republic recently opened diplomatic missions in Jerusalem but they constitute part of their respective embassies in Tel Aviv. Most of the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, a contested territory that the Palestinian Authority has long claimed as its future capital. 

Diplomatic ties between Israel and Kosovo have also strained relations with Serbia, which opposed Jerusalem’s full recognition of Kosovo’s independence. As a result, Serbia’s former declaration to eventually move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is therefore in doubt. Serbia considers Kosovo to be an integral part of Serbian territory. With the backing of powerful and influential UN Security Council members like Russia and China, the Serbs have so far succeeded in blocking Kosovo’s aspirations to become a member of the United Nations. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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