Kurti must follow the US leadership in the Jerusalem issue

Kurti must follow the US leadership in the Jerusalem issue


Altin Gjeta * 

Even before the paint dried on the ballot papers of the February 14 elections and without entering the office of the Prime Minister, Albin Kurti is beginning to feel the heavy weight of the challenges that the state of Kosovo will face in the international arena. A few days ago he received two greeting cards embroidered with a 'cartridge' in each envelope respectively. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, while congratulating Kurti for the historic victory in the February 14 elections, invites the incoming Prime Minister of Kosovo to open the embassy in Jerusalem according to the agreement reached in the White House with the mediation of President Trump. Meanwhile, in an almost threatening tone, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warns Albin Kurti not to take such a step, as it would have consequences for Kosovo.

Thus, upon taking office, Mr. Kurti's new government will find itself in the middle of three fires in foreign policy. Aware of the heavy weight of decisions in the international sphere, Kurti has not in vain devalued the dialogue with Serbia and foreign policy in general, in order not to keep up the expectations of the public. Based on his short experience as Prime Minister in early 2020, I believe that Mr. Kurti has already understood that a small country, under the monitoring of international partners, with open issues with Serbia, without a seat in the UN and a meeting point of the clash of interests of the ‘greats’, there is very little room for self-determination. For this reason, the issue of the location of the Kosovo embassy in Israel seems to be the first fire test for Albin Kurti,

In 2018 President Donald Trump, with a controversial move in foreign policy in the Middle East decided to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in support of the Israeli government which has declared Jerusalem the capital, and in under U.S. federal law of 1995, which mandates Washington to establish its embassy in the holy city. Jerusalem was legally placed under international administration by the United Nations in 1948 with the proclamation of the state of Israel in the Palestinian territories. However, during the Six Day War in 1967, Israel also occupied the eastern part of the city, designated as Palestinian territory, unifying Jerusalem and declaring it the capital in 1980. The prevailing position of the international community has been for the conflict over Jerusalem to be resolved through negotiations, taking into account the UN resolutions envisaging two states in the Palestinian territories. So far, only Guatemala has joined the US in relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv, while other centers of power have described Trump's move as dangerous to peace and stability in the Middle East. 

Ironically, Kosovo now finds itself in the trap of a frozen conflict in the Arab World where international and intra-national clashes and ambivalence between regional and world powers are intertwined. In such a situation, Kurti will find himself in the midst of a triangular pressure from the US, EU and Turkey, respectively three important centers of power with different approaches to the problem of the location of diplomatic headquarters in Israel, but which have contributed substantially to Kosovo's independence. . In this context, the decision that Mr. Kurti will take will not satisfy all the friends of Kosovo. Thus, I believe that Pristina diplomacy in this case should be guided by the British maxim, according to which the United Kingdom has no eternal friends, but eternal interests. 

Therefore, in this spirit, I think that between the US, the EU, and Turkey, Mr. Kurti should follow the American leadership in the policy towards Israel, as time has shown that Washington is the safest anchor to anchor in a increasingly multipolar international order. Moreover, in the US there seems to be a bipartisan attitude already towards the issue of Jerusalem. During a hearing in the Senate, Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State in the Biden administration, stated that he would keep the US Embassy in Jerusalem and praised the agreement for economic normalization between Kosovo and Serbia signed during the Trump presidency. Despite the turmoil brought by Mr. Trump, American foreign policy has shown that it is strategic and goes beyond the names of incumbent presidents. 

With the decision to establish the embassy in Jerusalem, Mr. Kurti would appreciate not only the strategic partner, the US, but also the state of Kosovo and Israel who have signed for the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations on the condition of respecting the location of the diplomatic headquarters in the holy city. Already in the post of Prime Minister, Albin Kurti should not fall prey to 'zero syndrome' in the governance of Kosovo. Failure to comply with such an agreement would undermine Pristina's credibility as a state that adheres to the signed agreements, regardless of who is in the prime minister's office.

Moreover, although it seems clear that Kurti is more European, from his political experience he must have learned that the EU is still far from being a global power and that its policy towards Kosovo's statehood has been divided and occasionally counterproductive. Brussels has been powerless to conclude the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, involving Pristina in a barren dialogue that has opened Kosovo citizenship for renegotiation and is the author of the Association of Serbian Municipalities in the North, so much anathema to Mr. Kurti himself when was in opposition. Although Kosovo has made painful concessions such as engaging in a dialogue with Serbia without clear intentions, and has approved the disputed demarcation agreement with Montenegro, the EU has not kept its promise of visa liberalization for Kosovar citizens. 

Unlike Washington, which has lobbied strongly for the recognition of Kosovo, recently securing the recognition of Israel, Brussels has been powerless to persuade five of its member states to recognize Kosovo. On the contrary, it seems that EU foreign policy has been more concerned with accommodating Serbia than with strengthening Kosovo's statehood. Finally, the EU's position on Israel's decision to declare Jerusalem its capital seems to be more principled, and is unlikely to affect Kosovo's path to European integration, as the latter will depend heavily on reaching an agreement. final with Serbia. 

As for Ankara's position on this issue, I think that Mr. Kurti needs to convey the appropriate diplomatic messages to inform President Erdogan that bilateral relations between Kosovo and Turkey can not and should not go beyond the respective positions. both sovereign countries to third countries. Although Turkey is a regional power and a close partner of Kosovo, Pristina should not allow itself to become a vassal of a country whose power and investment in Kosovo is incomparable to the US and EU. 

Ultimately, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not depend on Kosovo's decision whether or not to establish its embassy in Jerusalem. This is an already protracted crisis, and Kosovo does not have to become an actor or factor. All three friends of Kosovo are members of NATO, which is led by the US. And if Kosovo wants to be a sovereign and independent state, Pristina must first behave as such alongside its biggest supporter of statehood and the most powerful international actor, the United States. 

* Chevening fellow / Researcher at the Albanian Center for Good Governance

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