Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti met with US President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss normalizing their economic relations, two decades after a devastating conflict between them ended with a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia. In a move that seemed to catch the Serbian president by surprise, Trump announced that as part of the agreement Serbia will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem next July.
Israel and Kosovo will establish diplomatic relations with each other, while Serbia will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Both moves were announced during US-backed talks in Washington. In a related development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s press office announced the country’s recognition of Kosovo late last week, making Israel the 98th UN member state to recognize the former Serbian province. Kosovo, in turn, will recognize Israel, becoming one of only a handful of Muslim-majority countries to do so.
Last month, Trump mediated a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that saw the UAE drop its decades-long boycott against Israel in exchange for a halt on the construction of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. LINK
Aleksandar Vucic’s reaction when Donald Trump declared that Belgrade will move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem next July made some people wonder if the announcement was a surprise to the Serbian leader.
Vucic visited Washington this week to sign a US-brokered deal with Avdullah Hoti, prime minister of the breakaway Serbian region of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s autonomous legislature declared independence from Serbia in 2008 in a move that split the international community. Among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, France, the United Kingdom and the US recognize the majority-Muslim region’s independence, while China and Russia do not.
The agreement was touted as a great diplomatic success for Washington. Among other things, Kosovo, a Muslim-majority entity, agreed to recognize Israel while Serbia agreed to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Trump twittered later in the day:
“Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!”
The Serbian president’s reaction to the announcement, however, made some commenters wonder whether he knew the details of the document that he had signed. As Trump praised the pledge made by the Serbian government, Vucic looked sideways at his host, then flicked through the pages of the agreement apparently searching for the part where he had promised to move the Serbian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Footage that certainly makes it appear that Vucic did not realize he had agreed to moving the Serbian embassy to Jerusalem — or at least not by July, Trump states. Comedy of errors. pic.twitter.com/0QlzmYM3GY
— Jasmin Mujanović (@JasminMuj) September 5, 2020
Adding to the confusion, Trump mistakenly confused the identity of his two guests and called Hoti the “president of Kosovo.”
The Trump administration first announced plans to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move its embassy accordingly in 2017. The US and Israel have been trying hard to induce or pressure other countries to do the same ever since. Among the small number of countries that are following the move are Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi. LINK
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