Tomáš Baranec/Strategic Analysis (TB): Independence of Kosovo has still not been recognised by many states, making the position of Prishtina a bit complicated from the point of view of international relations. Who are Kosovo’s closest partners?
Florian Qehaja (FQ): According to the strategic orientation as well as surveys measuring public perception (Kosovo Security Barometer), Kosovo’s two most strategic partners are the USA and Germany. Turkey could be considered the third strategic partner for Kosovo though unlike unequivocal positive attitude towards both the US and Germany, the relations with Turkey are considered to be very good yet with occasional tensions and mixed feelings. The most recent case was with the deportation of six Gulenists from Kosovo to Turkey, which sparked diplomatic tensions between then Prime Minister Haradinaj and Turkish President Erdogan.
TB: Relations between the United States and Turkey have been tense in recent years. Did this fact have any impact on Prishtina?
FQ: No, the tensions between USA and Turkey were not so much reflected in Kosovo. The reason for this could be seen along the line of complementarity that both actors had with respect to enhancing Kosovo’s statehood, especially in the international arena. For example, despite ‘not-so-good relations’ between the US and Turkey recently, there was a synergy and indirect coordination serving the goal of consolidating Kosovo’s statehood. The only implication that could have been noticed was that the existing relations between both could have made Prishtina reluctant to further enhance partnership with Turkey, especially in military terms. There could have been limits in enhancing this partnership in which Kosovo was careful not to cross the line in utilising Turkish support in every aspect.
TB: How can Kosovo’s recognition of Israel in the Washington-mediated agreement with Serbia be understood in this context?
FQ: Israel seems to be a new and sudden player in the Balkans, often considered to be the biggest winner of this deal. Israel’s recognition of Kosovo is accepted to be a huge step: it led a country who had historical ties with Serbia to recognise Kosovo despite stating until recently that its recognition could have been used as a precedent with respect to Palestine. Its decision could have opened the gateway for other countries claiming their internal regions could be used as a precedent in recognising Kosovo. In fact, the main challenge deriving from the recognition of Israel is the establishment of the Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem. This has allegedly triggered a reaction in Turkey and could give a bad moment to Kosovo-Turkey relations, at least in the short term. This could be fixed meanwhile with potential growing understanding in Ankara on Kosovo’s ultimate intention to expand its diplomatic footprint. Kosovo and Palestine do not recognise each other, whereas Kosovo also is still not recognised by half of the Muslim world despite its continuous calls.