Kingdom Establishes Ties With Kosovo

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia formally established diplomatic ties with Kosovo following the signing of the protocol accord for diplomatic relations by Khalid A. Al-Nafisee, permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, and Avni Spahiu, Kosovo ambassador to the United States, at the UN office on Friday.

A close ally, the Kingdom has also been one of the top donors to Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia and declared its independence in February 2008.

“A significant number of countries from the Middle East will be following Saudi Arabia’s lead in recognizing Kosovo and in boosting links with that state on all levels,” Al-Nafisee said in a statement to Arab News on Saturday. “Riyadh, which seeks to strengthen ties in all sectors, is a close ally of Kosovo.”

He said that the Kingdom became the 58th state to recognize Kosovo in April this year despite reservations expressed by many other countries on this issue.

Commenting on the protocol signed by Riyadh and Pristina, Alb Gazmend, Kosovo’s ambassador to Albania who has been lobbying for Arab support for Kosovo, said: “The diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Kosovo had been established with a mission to strengthen friendship and cooperation on the principles of mutual acknowledgment, respect of independence and territorial integrity.”

On behalf of the Kosovo government, Gazmend said: “I offered my genuine appreciations and thanks to the people and the government of the Kingdom for inking the diplomatic instrument at the UN.”

Asked about Saudi support, Admirim Banaj, Albanian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “The Kingdom’s aid and assistance in various forms have been reliable and consistent through the years.”

He pointed out that several international donors together with Riyadh pledged $1.9 billion last year to help build Kosovo’s battered economy, surpassing their target.

“Kosovo believes that the recognition and influence of Saudi Arabia, as one of the most important Muslim countries, will encourage other countries to recognize Kosovo and establish diplomatic ties,” said Banaj.

“But, Kosovo’s plan to set up an embassy in Saudi Arabia is a priority now,” said a report published by the English-language Kosovo Times. “One of the priorities for Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to open a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia despite its limited budget, which does not allow them to have embassies in all the countries that have recognized Kosovo.”

To this end, the report noted that more than 2,000 pilgrims from Kosovo would travel to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for Haj and Umrah this year.

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