Kosovo to normalise ties with Israel, open embassy in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti

Kosovo has agreed to normalise ties with Israel and will become the first Muslim nation to open an embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

The move is part of a deal between Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and the U.S. administration to cooperate on a range of economic fronts to attract investment and create jobs.

Until now, Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, has never before recognised Israel nor has Israel recognised Kosovo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel and Kosovo will establish diplomatic relations and said Pristina also will open its embassy in Jerusalem.

“Kosovo will be the first majority-Muslim country to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “As I’ve said in recent days, the circle of peace and recognition of Israeli is widening and is expected to add additional countries.”

Kosovo has been heavily dependent on the U.S. since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Bahrain has said all flights to and from the United Arab Emirates can cross its airspace, a move that will allow air services between Israel and the UAE to fly over the kingdom.

The decision follows an agreement last month that saw the UAE becoming the third Arab country to reach a deal with Israel about normalising ties.

“Bahrain will allow all flights coming to and departing from the United Arab Emirates to all countries to cross its airspace,” reported the official Bahrain News Agency, citing an official source at the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications.

The decision cuts flying time between the UAE and Israel by several hours.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a British naval base, has slowly encouraged ties to Israel, with two U.S.-based rabbis in 2017 saying King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa himself promoted the idea of ending the boycott of Israel by Arab nations.

Last month, an Israeli official said Bahrain and Oman could be the next Gulf country to follow the UAE in formalising ties with Israel.

But Bahraini state media reported last week that King Hamad had told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Gulf state was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians oppose any normalisation with Israel and have condemned the Arab countries which have done so as traitors to the Palestinian cause.

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