Having originally refused to recognise the independence of Kosovo, Israel has struck another deal of diplomatic firsts. The Jewish state is to recognise Kosovo, which will open an embassy in Jerusalem – the first Muslim country to do so. Its neighbour Serbia will move its embassy to Jerusalem by July 2021. The deal announced by US president Donald Trump last Friday, was part of a wider agreement between the two former Yugoslavian states to increase economic cooperation ten years after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. The move will embolden Trump as more countries follow his controversial lead to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – seen as incendiary by the Palestinians, European capitals and many supporters of the two-state solution – and hot on tails of the Israel-UAE deal to normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries. Noa Landau in the Israel paper Haaretz, said “The official excuse [for Israel not recognising Kosovo] was Serbian opposition to the move, but the deeper reason was the desire to avoid setting a precedent that could be used to justify the recognition of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence.” For recognition of Kosovo Netanyahu has got not one, but two, new embassies in Jerusalem. EU representatives have stated their “serious concern and regret” about Serbia’s decision. This will worry Belgrade as it tries to gain EU membership. The timing of Serbia’s embassy move possibly gives it the opportunity to re-think following the November US election.
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