Kosovo becomes the latest Muslim-majority country to normalise relations with Israel. The deal comes after the Jewish state signed a series of agreements last year under the auspices of former US president Donald Trump to establish diplomatic relations with Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
Donald Trump already announced the normalisation of relations between the two countries in September as a parallel commitment to an economic agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. As part of the agreement, Kosovo agreed to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Serbia, which has ties with Israel, also agreed to open an embassy in the Holy City.
Through a telematic meeting, Israel and Kosovo reinforced their decision to establish diplomatic relations. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the new ties were "historic" and "reflect a change in the region and in the Arab (and) Muslim world's relationship with Israel". Ashkenazi also confirmed that he had received an official request from Kosovo to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, which Israeli officials expect to open by the end of March.
The ceremony included the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to be placed at the entrance of the Kosovo embassy in Jerusalem at the time of its opening, Israel's foreign ministry said.
Although other Arab countries such as Sudan, Morocco, UAE and Bahrain have taken the step of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, they have maintained their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv, unlike Kosovo, which has already announced that it will open its embassy in Jerusalem. This contradicts the global consensus against recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital until the Palestinian conflict is resolved.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as their capital. In 2017, Donald Trump largely surprised observers by saying that the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Biden administration is unlikely to reverse this decision, and for now maintains the US embassy in the Holy City.
Kosovo's foreign minister, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, said that Kosovo and Israel share a "historical bond" and that both have "witnessed a long and difficult path to exist as a people and to become states".
Haradinaj Stublla thanked the United States for Israel's recognition of Kosovo's independence and invited other countries to take the same step. The head of Kosovo's outgoing government, Avdullah Hoti, declared at the ceremony that by establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, his country was breaking a stalemate in the number of international recognitions.