Saturday

6th Mar 2021

EU urges Kosovo to rethink Jerusalem move

The EU foreign service has urged Kosovo to reconsider opening an embassy in Jerusalem, following a digital ceremony with Israel on Monday (1 February).

"Kosovo has identified EU integration as its strategic priority. The EU expects Kosovo to act in line with this commitment so that its European perspective is not undermined," an EU spokesman said the same day.

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The EU was against recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, because the 'Holy City' was meant to be shared with Palestinians in a two-state solution, the spokesman said.

"A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states and the aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled. The question of Jerusalem is a final status issue," the EU spokesman added.

Kosovo, as an aspirant EU member, is meant to align its foreign policy with Europe.

The EU reiterated its position after Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and her Kosovar counterpart, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, formally established diplomatic relations via a Zoom videoconference (due to the pandemic) earlier the same day.

The ceremony represented a "historic ... change in the region, and in the Arab and Muslim world's relationship with Israel", Ashkenazi said.

Kosovo would open its Jerusalem embassy by the end of March, Ashkenazi added.

And while the EU did not like it, the new US administration of president Joe Biden had given the green light, Haradinaj-Stublla said.

"Deeper international ties help further peace and stability in the Balkans and Middle East," US state department spokesman Ned Price also tweeted on Monday's deal.

The Israel-Kosovo pact was first announced by former US president Donald Trump at the same time as a Kosovo-Serbia economic deal last September.

Trump, back in 2019, also moved the US embassy away from its EU neighbours in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

And despite hope for a transatlantic reset under Biden, Biden's secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said in January that he would stick to the Trump move.

The US and Guatemala are the only nations who have fully fledged embassies in Jerusalem.

But despite Monday's EU's appeal for Kosovo to change its mind, three EU states have also broken ranks with the bloc's policy.

For its part, Hungary opened a branch of its embassy in Jerusalem also in 2019.

Romania's prime minister said it would do so in future.

And the Czech Republic opened a new trade office in the Holy City at the same time.

The Czech foreign ministry also said, last December, that it would post a handful of diplomats to the Jerusalem office in 2021.

"This is not about setting up a new embassy," the Czech foreign ministry said at the time.

But it was a de-facto "step that is indicative of the ... recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the state of Israel and the Jewish people," Israel said.

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