Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, said Thursday that were his country to have an embassy in Israel, he would put it in Jerusalem. “If Kosovo were recognized by Israel, I would open the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem,” Thaci explained during an interview with Vizion Plus in Albania.
A former paramilitary leader, Thaci has been president of Kosovo since 2016. Before that, he had been prime minister, having unilaterally declared the country’s independence from Serbia in 2008. The small Balkan country was at the center of tension between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the 1990s after the collapse of Yugoslavia, culminating in the Kosovo War in 1998 and 1999, which saw Kosovo Albanians supported by NATO allies.
The nation, which has a population of fewer than 2 million, is recognized by a majority of the United Nations' member states. However, Serbia does not recognize it as an independent state, and many other nations who have their own fears of separatist movements have also refused to recognize it, including major powers such as China, Russia and India.
Israel’s decision to not recognize Kosovo was based in part upon its own fears that Palestinians would use Kosovo to justify their own independence, the Jerusalem Post reported at the time. However, politicians in both countries have spoken warmly of their ties and hopes for a new relationship in the future.
Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was controversial, as the city is disputed and divided, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem will be the capital city of a future state.
However, the Palestine Liberation Organization does not support Kosovo’s independence either, in part because of concerns over the pro-U.S. public sentiment in Kosovo that has dominated since the 1990s. Notably, the big countries that don’t recognize Kosovo often recognize the Palestinian territories as a state.
Though many in Kosovo supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. election because of the role her husband, former president Bill Clinton, played in the Kosovo War, Thaci has sought to develop close ties to Trump. On the sidelines of last year’s U.N. General Assembly in New York, Thaci met with the American leader and later told reporters that Trump “has a clear vision for Kosovo.”
In January, Thaci told reporters that if it could have, Kosovo would have supported the United States in a vote on a nonbinding resolution at the U.N. General Assembly that condemned Trump’s decision to move the embassy. Kosovo is not a U.N. member, and in the end, 128 countries voted for the resolution.