Israel and Kosovo will establish full diplomatic relations on Monday, Kosovo’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Meliza Haradinaj-Stubla, wrote on her official website.
The signing will be held in a virtual event with Haradinaj-Stubla and Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi. The Kosovar foreign minister had planned to visit Israel this week, but the trip has been postponed because Israel has stopped all flights due to COVID-19.
In a video posted on social media, Haradinaj-Stubla 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.”
Haradinaj-Stubla called Israel’s recognition of Kosovo one of the country’s “greatest achievements,” and thanked the US for facilitating it.
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.
About 40% of the 500 Jews who lived in Kosovo, which was occupied by the Nazis and Italy during World War II, did not survive, and most were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The minister said Israel has returned the goodwill by supporting Kosovo’s cause of independence and taking in Kosovar refugees.
Israel-Kosovo relations came as part of a Trump administration-led agreement in September between Kosovo and Serbia to open business ties between the countries. Those agreements also included normalization between Israel and Kosovo and for both Balkan states to open embassies in Jerusalem.
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.
Serbia had already announced months earlier that it planned to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem, which officials in Belgrade said was to be a first step towards an embassy in Israel’s capital.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood, however and an Israeli diplomatic source confirmed that Belgrade was disappointed with the latest developments. In September, sources close to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić made clear that if Belgrade opens an embassy in Jerusalem, Serbia would expect Israel not to recognize Kosovo as a country – although it could maintain lower-level ties. Serbia may still open an embassy in Jerusalem, as the agreement signed in the White House stipulates, but relations with Israel will be downgraded, the source said at the time.