Serbian official says plan to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem ‘not definite’

Serbian official says plan to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem ‘not definite’
An advisor to Serbia’s president says that the Balkan country’s plan to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, announced by Donald Trump last week, may not go ahead
3 min read
10 September, 2020
Serbia's embassy to Israel is currently located in Tel Aviv [Getty]

A Serbian official cast doubt on Wednesday on whether Belgrade would relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, saying the decision was "not definite", less than a week after US President Donald Trump announced the move.

Israel emerged an unsuspected winner from last week's White House-brokered summit between former Balkan war foes Serbia and Kosovo, with the latter agreeing to recognise Israel, and Serbia following in Washington's footsteps to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is not recognized by the UN as Israel’s capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly celebrated Serbia becoming the first European country to agree to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, after Washington's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital almost three years ago.

Israel captured the western half of Jerusalem in 1948, in violation of a UN resolution declaring the holy city an international zone. It took the eastern half of Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and illegally annexed it shortly afterwards.

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While Trump presented Serbia’s move as a done deal, on Wednesday the Serbian president's top media advisor said it was "not a definite decision".

"For now, we haven't accepted anything, nothing was signed," Suzana Vasiljevic told local media.

"We will see how the situation develops, and how Israel will behave when their relations with Kosovo are in question," she added.

Serbia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

Israeli media on Wednesday also cited an anonymous source "close" to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic who said the country would not move its embassy if Israel recognises Kosovo - another key part of the Trump deal.

Israeli recognition was celebrated as a major win for Kosovo, a former province of Serbia with an ethnic Albanian majority that declared independence in 2008 and is still fighting for acceptance on the global stage.

While the US and most of the West recognises Kosovo, Belgrade and its allies Russia and China do not, one of the main sources of lingering tensions.

The Israel dimension was a surprise outcome of the White House talks that were billed as a "historic" agreement of economic normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia, even though analysts have pointed out that few of the agreements were new or promised substantive progress.

Doubts over Serbia's embassy move come after a video went viral showing Vucic appearing surprised when Trump announced his commitment to shift the embassy.

The Serbian president later insisted he was only taken aback at the mention of the deadline for the move, July 2021.

The EU candidate country's move also raised "concern" in Brussels, which still backs a "two-state solution" in which Jerusalem would be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

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