On Friday, President Donald Trump and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu announced a historic deal between two European rivals in the Balkan peninsula: Muslim-majority Kosovo and Christian-majority Serbia. The two countries, long rivals, signed an accord on economic cooperation and pledged to open embassies in Jerusalem, recognizing that city as the capital of Israel. Kosovo will also officially recognize Israel for the first time.
“After a violent and tragic history and years of failed negotiations, my Administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide” between Kosovo and Serbia, Trump said in remarks at the White House. “By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a real breakthrough on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues.”
“We have also made additional progress on reaching peace in the Middle East. Kosovo and Israel have agreed to [the] normalization of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations,” the president added. “Serbia has committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July.”
Trump praised the “tremendous bravery” of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, whose agreement makes “their countries, the Balkans, and the world safer.”
In a statement on the historic accord, Netanyahu announced that “Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”
Only two countries — the United States and Guatemala — have already opened embassies in Jerusalem. Kosovo and Serbia will be the first European countries to formally recognize the ancient capital as the diplomatic capital of the modern Jewish state.
Serbia established an empire in the Balkans in the 1300s, but the Ottoman Empire annexed Serbia in 1540. Serbia revolted against the Ottomans in 1817, and it gained recognition from the Great Powers in 1878. Serbia acquired Kosovo in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. It joined a pan-Slavic state in 1918. After World War II, it became a federal unit within the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under Soviet influence. Yugoslavia dissolved in a series of wars in the 1990s. Serbia became an independent state in 2006, and Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.
Serbia retained its Christian identity despite the Ottoman rule, but most of Kosovo accepted Islam.
The Kosovo-Israel-Serbia deal follows a similarly historic deal Trump brokered last month in which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) officially recognized Israel.
Not only did Donald Trump open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, but he has also led three other countries to do the same.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.