Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, the White House announced in a statement on Friday. Both countries, part of the former Yugoslavia, will relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, news reports said. The move will make Kosovo the first Muslim-majority country to open a diplomatic mission in the Holy City, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Friday. 

The announcement comes on the heels of a landmark cooperation agreement between Christian Orthodox Serbia and Muslim-majority Kosovo which seeks to normalize the relations between the two former rivals in the Balkan region. The wide-ranging agreement is a major diplomatic victory for U.S. President Donald Trump who brokered the deal, and Ambassador Richard Grenell, the White House special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia negotiations. 

“Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalization of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations. Serbia has committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July,” President Trump said in a statement on Friday. 

Friday’s announcement was welcomed by the Israeli government. “Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority nation to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I said in recent days the circle of peace is expanding and more nations are expected to join,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.

The Associated Press reported the normalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and the two Balkan nations: 

President Donald Trump announced Friday that Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize economic ties as part of U.S.-brokered talks that include Belgrade moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo.

After two days of meetings with Trump administration officials, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti agreed to cooperate on a range of economic fronts to attract investment and create jobs. The announcement provided Trump with a diplomatic win ahead of the November presidential election and furthers his administration’s push to improve Israel’s international standing.

“I’m pleased to announce a truly historic commitment,” Trump said in the Oval Office, standing alongside the two leaders. “Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization.”

“After a violent and tragic history and years of failed negotiations, my administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide. By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a major breakthrough,” the president said.

Trump said Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July.

Serbia’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nod to both Israel and the United States. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the U.S. embassy there in May 2018.

These are truly historic days for the Middle East. Two weeks after the United Arab Emirates became the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish State, Serbia and Kosovo are set to become the first European nations to open their embassies in Jerusalem. 

President Trump faced a barrage of criticism from the mainstream media and hostility on the world stage when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The United Nations passed a resolution condemning the move, 128 to nine. The European Union rejected the move, while Muslim countries spearheaded by Iran and Turkey, launched a fierce diplomatic campaign against the announcement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government reportedly bullied European countries to prevent them from recognizing Israel’s capital, media reports said

For two long years, the U.S. president brushed all that aside and worked towards reconciliation in the Middle East; unveiling the Trump peace plan in January 2020 and brokering the Israel-UAE peace agreement last month.
 

The developments on Friday not only bear good news for Israel as the country seeks to normalize diplomatic relations with Arab and Muslim countries, it also brings stability to the most volatile region in Europe. By getting Christian Orthodox Serbia and Muslim-majority Kosovo to agree to work together, President Trump has accomplished another historic milestone of his current four-year term. 

Ambassador Richard Grenell schools Washington reporters on the significance of Serbia-Kosovo agreement

 

 
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