Kosovo experiences backlash over Jerusalem embassy plans

Prime Minister Hoti’s commitment to opening an embassy in Jerusalem has drawn sharp criticism from the EU and Turkey, with analysts warning that it may cause problems for Kosovo’s diplomatic efforts further down the line.

After the surprise news on Friday that Israel is set to recognise Kosovo, Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti has announced that his government is “dedicated” to establishing diplomatic relations between the two states, including opening an embassy in Jerusalem. 

However, his commitment to establish an embassy in Jerusalem has sparked a wide-reaching backlash, with Turkey, the Arab League and the EU all strongly criticising the move. 

Speaking before an EU-facilitated meeting between Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on Monday, EU spokesperson Peter Stano stated that the Union’s foreign policy is very clear about opening embassies in Jerusalem.

“There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem, the EU delegation is not in Jerusalem,” Stano said. “The EU has repeatedly reaffirmed our commitment to a negotiated and viable two-state solution. Part of this two-negotiated solution is also an agreement on final status issues, [including] Jerusalem.”

Stano added that as a country identifying EU accession as its priority, Kosovo would be expected to honour this commitment. “Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem, are a matter of serious concern and regret,” the spokesperson said. 

On Sunday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA, also released a response to Hoti’s statement, calling on Kosovo authorities to respect international law. “It is disappointing that such a step, which would constitute a clear violation of international law is even considered by the Kosovo authorities,” the ministry said. 

The Turkish MFA added that various UN resolutions have emphasised that the Palestinian conflict can only be settled through the establishment of an independent Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“We call upon the leadership of Kosovo to comply with these resolutions and refrain from acts that would harm the historical and legal status of Jerusalem, and that would prevent Kosovo from being recognized by other states in the future,” the ministry stated. 

The Turkish Embassy in Prishtina also posted a translation of the statement in Albanian on its Facebook account, while the General Secretary of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, is also reported to have criticised the move on the basis of its violation of international resolutions.

At a press conference on Monday, President Hashim Thaci took steps to allay fears about Kosovo’s friendly relations with Turkey being jeopardised by the move. “I’ve been in contact with President Erdogan and we have discussed [the issue] on the phone,” he said. “This recognition will not in any way affect the friendly and fraternal partnership with Turkey.”

Aidan Hehir, a reader of International Relations at the University of Westminster that specialises in Kosovo statebuilding believes that locating the embassy in Jerusalem was the price Kosovo had to pay for recognition from Israel.

“It’s a potentially inflammatory move for Kosovo given the EU is opposed, and so too are many of Kosovo’s allies in the region,” Hehir told Prishtina Insight. “It will obviously make Arab League members think twice about dealing with Kosovo, while for those states yet to recognise Kosovo this subservient behaviour will further undermine Kosovo’s claims to be a sovereign state.”

In terms of the wider picture internationally, Hehir does not predict immediate consequences but warns that it may make Kosovo’s future diplomatic efforts tougher. “I can’t see any state derecognising Kosovo because of this, though I expect it will make many wary of Kosovo,” he said. “There is a widespread feeling internationally that Kosovo is a ‘US colony’ which does whatever Washington says. This will only accentuate these feelings.”

07/09/2020 - 15:30

07 September 2020 - 15:30

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.