The Abraham-lite Accords

As Sudan’s transition to democracy collapses and its US-negotiated normalization process with Israel is further questioned, there remains another US-mediated political process that has partially stalled: the Washington Accord – signed documents. separately by Serbia and its former province, Kosovo, which indirectly involves Israel.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, but the Belgrade government still considers it part of Serbia. Driven by the administration of then-US President Donald Trump, the deals have largely collapsed since current President Joe Biden took office.

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Israeli flags, United States"In and Kosovo

The flags of Israel, the United States and Kosovo

(Photo: EPA)

“There is no leadership in this negotiation process. For more than a decade, there has been a slow-motion process facilitated by the European Union without a clear mandate for implementation and timetable, ”said Alush Gashi, an adviser to former Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and a former member of parliament.

“There is a strong belief that without direct American engagement, there is no chance of success, especially after Brexit and the deep divisions between EU countries,” he continued.

Both Serbia and Kosovo are seeking admission to the EU. “Interestingly, the facilitators of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia are from countries that have not recognized Kosovo, with whom Serbia has diplomatic relations,” Gashi said. “Lately, the Biden administration has brought onto the scene high-level diplomats who are familiar with the region. Hopefully that can raise awareness among EU countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence and convince Serbia that Kosovo’s independence is irreversible. “

While the agreement is not recognized as part of the Abraham Accords series, the Trump administration served as an agent for the Washington Accord between the staunch enemies of Serbia and Kosovo. On September 4, 2020, the then Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hoti, and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, separately signed and submitted to Trump identical statements in wording and content, in addition to their respective commitments regarding relations with Israel.

In the end, the United States negotiated a grab bag of its own with its own priorities: both Serbia and Kosovo agreed to exclude China from their 5G telecommunications infrastructure and designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

And Richard Grenell, the US envoy for the Serbia / Kosovo negotiations, said that perhaps the most important provision of all in the agreement was that Serbia agreed to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by July 1, 2021. , and that Kosovo and Israel would establish diplomatic relations, and a Kosovo embassy would also be installed in the Israeli capital.

On February 1, Kosovo and Israel formally established diplomatic relations, and six weeks later, Kosovo opened its embassy in Jerusalem with little fanfare. Although Kosovo is by constitution a secular state, Israel welcomed Kosovo as the first Muslim-majority nation to establish an embassy in Jerusalem.

While the EU generally welcomed the Washington Agreement, it criticized the provisions on the establishment of embassies in Jerusalem as diverging from the EU’s position. Turkey and other Muslim countries also criticized this decision.

But Israel’s recognition of Kosovo gave Vučić cover to indefinitely postpone moving the Serbian embassy to Jerusalem, a notion he was clearly uncomfortable with at the time the Washington Accord was signed.

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Israeli and American flags"In kosovoIsraeli and American flags"In kosovo

The flags of Israel, the United States and Kosovo

(Photo: EPA)

“We are very happy with Kosovo’s recognition of Israel and the location of its embassy in Jerusalem, and efforts related to normalization with Pristina are constantly happening,” Lior Haiat, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told The Media Line. “Our ties to Belgrade go back decades and while we would love to have your embassy in Jerusalem, [the lack of the embassy transfer] It has not tarnished our relationship at all. They have their interests and we understand them ”. But the embassy issue appears to be one of the less important setbacks for the deals.

A few weeks ago, leaders and advocacy organizations from the Albanian-American, Bosnian-American, and Montenegrin communities wrote an open letter to the US Senate and House foreign relations committees, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and advisor National Security Officer Jake Sullivan. The signatories called on the United States to commit to a stronger presence in the Western Balkan region amid the “growing militancy of the Serbian government,” expressing alarm at what they called Belgrade’s growing aggression towards Kosovo, but also increasingly towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Signatories said the “most alarming scenes” took place in Kosovo in late September when Vučić deployed tanks, fighter jets and armored vehicles near the border after Serbia breached a license plate agreement that the EU negotiated with Serbia and Kosovo. for almost a decade. behind.

The EU and US got involved in the matter, and the EU was ridiculed in some diplomatic circles when high-level officials released messages of celebration that a task force had been established to address the issue of license plates, symbolizing how low the bar had been set. for diplomatic advances. According to the agreement negotiated by the EU and the US, NATO soldiers are guarding the crossing points to a Serbian enclave in northern Kosovo, and local officials are required to place stickers on car license plates to cover the national badges until a better solution is found in the next six months. by a special working group chaired by the EU.

The deal was “fair,” Vučić said, although he added: “I would like … to find more durable solutions that do not include recognition of Kosovo.”

Meanwhile, the US has ceded handling of the negotiations to the EU, although Gabriel Escobar, a senior US official dealing with the Western Balkans, was credited with helping defuse the problem.

Earlier this week, Kosovo’s sports minister threatened to retaliate and called on the event’s organizers in Serbia to be punished after three Kosovo boxers were twice denied entry to attend the men’s amateur world championships in Belgrade. , first for wearing the national symbols of Kosovo and then again without the symbols. .

“Washington’s commitments outline steps to help economic normalization between Kosovo and Serbia. The need for full standardization has no expiration date, “a State Department spokesman told The Media Line.

“We hope that our partners act in good faith and continue to honor the commitments made in Washington. Our support continues to Kosovo, Serbia and other contenders in the Western Balkan region to advance the political and economic reforms necessary to achieve their EU membership goals, ”the spokesperson added.

The United States played a key role in ensuring Kosovo’s sovereignty and in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement to end the three-and-a-half-year Bosnian War in December 1995. This time, however, it appears that you just talk about continuing to talk about what needs to be talked about.

“There is very modest progress in the implementation of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue agreements. The dialogue has served to manage the distrust between the two countries ”, lamented Gashi.

“The good news is that the Biden administration has reaffirmed the clear US position on dialogue, while the European Union maintains its vague position on dialogue,” he said.

Basically, however, there appears to be little pressure on the Serbian government for full recognition of Kosovo, with many experts arguing that Belgrade essentially has veto power over Kosovo’s integration into the EU. Kosovo is recognized by more than 100 countries, including 22 members of the EU. But five EU member states – Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Spain – continue to block Kosovo’s accession, with their collective position that they will recognize Kosovo only after a full normalization agreement is reached between Belgrade and Pristina.

“The dialogue will be successful when the EU joins the United States in its position on Kosovo,” Gashi said.

The article was written by Mike Wagenheim and reprinted with permission from The media line.

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