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Turkey pressures Kosovo to renege on promise to open embassy in Jerusalem

Ankara, meanwhile, opens official government office to promote Muslim tourism from Turkey to Al-Aqsa mosque

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo: Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS)

Turkey is pressuring one of Israel’s newest allies, Kosovo, to avoid establishing an embassy in Jerusalem as it had promised to do, according to reports.

After a meeting between Kosovo’s prime minister-designate, Albin Kurti, and the Turkish ambassador earlier this week, Kurti released a statement saying that, “The place where the embassy will be located is to be considered following checking of the documentation of the outgoing government.”

Despite having its own peace treaty with Israel, Turkey criticized both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after the two Gulf states announced peace deals with the Jewish state last fall.

But in recent months, Turkey has made positive overtures toward Jerusalem, even appointing an ambassador to the Jewish state.

In December we reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended a two-year standoff with Israel by appointing an ambassador. He even said he hopes the two countries can improve ties.

“Our heart desires that we can move our relations with them to a better point,” Erdogan said at the time.

So why is Erdogan intervening now and warning Kosovo that the move could damage future relations with his country?

“I believe that it would be beneficial to avoid such a move that would cause great damage to Kosovo,” Erdogan said.

Israel recognized the breakaway republic after an economic normalization deal between Kosovo and Serbia, brokered by former United States President Donald Trump. Both Serbia and Kosovo recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Kosovo being the first Muslim-majority territory to do so. Most countries’ embassies are in Tel Aviv.

Then in February, Israel and Kosovo established diplomatic ties and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi approved Kosovo’s “formal request to open an embassy” in the city. Kosovo even sent its ambassador to Israel.

But Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and most of the international community believes the final status of the city should be resolved through negotiations. Countries that recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital are harming such talks, they claim.

At the same time, Turkey has just established a department exclusively dedicated to encouraging tourism to Jerusalem for its citizens. A special department in the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is preparing a tour guide of Jerusalem replete with the city’s history and important sites for Muslims to visit.

Erdogan has personally been pushing Muslim pilgrimages to Jerusalem and more specifically, Al-Aqsa Mosque over the past few years. We reported last year that Turkey is waging a “quiet jihad” in Jerusalem – of which tourism is a large part – in addition to investing in the local Palestinian community and buying real estate with its sights, ultimately, set on control of the Temple Mount.

Last year, Erdogan told a session of the Turkish parliament that “Jerusalem is our city.”

“In this city, which we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” he said.

When Turkey reopened the Hagia Sophia as a mosque last year, Erdogan called it a “harbinger of the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Turkey invests in the city and clearly wants its people to visit Jerusalem, yet it seems to draw the line at having other Muslim countries recognize the city as the Jewish capital.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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