Historic²: Israel and Kosovo establish full diplomatic ties over Zoom

In a uniquely held ceremony via a Zoom meeting on Monday, Israel and Muslim-majority Kosovo officially established diplomatic ties Monday.



The ceremony, which according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry is the first of its kind in the world, saw agreements signed by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and then scanned and sent to his Kosovar counterpart Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla in the capital of Pristina.

In her official capacity, the Kosovo Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism last week on International Holocaust Memorial Day, which among other things defines certain anti-Israel activity as antisemitic.

According to Ashkenazi, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla also submitted a formal request to open an embassy in Jerusalem – which was accepted.

At the ceremony, Kosovo’s foreign minister was joined – off-screen – by representatives from the Kosovar Jewish community, and lauded this “historic achievement that brings joy to the people of Kosovo and the Jewish people.”

The agreements signed included three bilateral ones, consisting of a joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations and memoranda of understanding (MoU) on diplomatic consultations between the foreign ministers and on development cooperation via the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV).

Both ministers thanked the US for helping push these agreements forward, as these new ties were part of the Serbia and Kosovo economic agreement negotiated by former US national intelligence chief Richard Grenell. Both countries are supposed to open embassies in Jerusalem, though Serbia already has one in Tel Aviv.

Kosovo would be the first Muslim-majority country to have the first embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, and it and Serbia would be the first European countries to do so. To date, only the US and Guatemala have embassies in Jerusalem. Most countries have chosen to place their embassies in the Tel Aviv area.

“Our agreement is part of a series of agreements and understandings signed in Washington,” Asheknazi said, adding “thanks to the US for efforts to promote peace in the world and advance Israeli relationships with countries with which we have not had until recently.”

Haradinaj-Stublla also gave thanks to the US, and encouraged Israelis to invest in Kosovo.

The US State Department issued its own congratulations after the ceremony.

“Congratulations to Israel and Kosovo for formally establishing diplomatic relations – a historic day,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price tweeted. “When our partners are united, the United States is stronger. Deeper international ties help further peace and stability in the Balkans and Middle East.”

The use of Zoom to sign these agreements amid the COVID-19 pandemic is also a major step forward, according to Gil Haskel, the Foreign Ministry’s head of protocol, who dubbed it a historic moment in its own right.

Agreement signed by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Zoom meeting. – Screenshot: Israel’s Foreign Ministry/ZOOM

Last week, ahead of the ceremony, Haradinaj-Stublla took to social media to share a video that cited the “long friendship between our peoples,” and said that Israelis and Kosovars have a similar ethos, in that “despite the challenges we faced and that affected our existence we remained invincible as peoples and never gave up nor did we lose hope.”

She also mentioned Albanians who helped save Jews during the Holocaust, citing their custom of besa (pledge), to protect guests from harm. Greater Albania welcomed more Jews at the end of the Holocaust than at its start.

The minister said Israel has returned the goodwill by supporting Kosovo’s cause of independence and taking in Kosovar refugees.

With these new relations, Israel has become the 117th country to formally recognize the independence of Kosovo, which has long battled for recognition of its independence from Serbia.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood, however and an Israeli diplomatic source confirmed last week that Belgrade was disappointed with the latest developments.


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