Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej became the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit Kosovo, landing in the capital city of Pristina on Sunday, at the invitation of Kosovo’s government.
“I’m proud to be the first Israeli minister to visit this small and peace-loving republic in the Balkans,” Frej said of his visit for a series of meetings with senior officials including Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Foreign Minister Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz and others. “This is another chapter in the broad relations between the countries, which began before official diplomatic relations and continues today through economic, cultural, academic, agricultural and other cooperation.”
Kosovo was one of a series of Muslim-majority countries to establish relations with Israel in 2020, though the normalization was separate from the Abraham Accords and was part of a US-mediated agreement between Serbia and Kosovo. The country also became the first Muslim-majority state to establish an embassy in Jerusalem.
Israel became the 117th country to recognize Kosovo’s independence, which was declared in 2008. Jerusalem had previously been reticent to do so out of a concern that it would set a precedent for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Frej said he considers it of “great importance in strengthening the ties between Israel and this Muslim state.”
Frej brought with him Sakhnin Mayor Safwat Abu Ria, Kafr Bara neighbor Mahmoud Asi and officials from his office to Kosovo.
The Israeli minister is expected to join Kosovo’s health minister on a visit to a local hospital to which Israel has donated 90 wheelchairs. In addition, he will meet with Israeli doctors working with the Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart who traveled to Kosovo to diagnose children who need heart surgery.