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Trump flanked by Vucic (L) and Hoti (R). Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

A White House summit between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo ended with a twist on Friday: Both countries announced diplomatic breakthroughs not with one another, but with Israel.

Driving the news: Serbia has agreed to move its embassy to Jerusalem "by July," President Trump announced, while Kosovo and Israel will grant one another diplomatic recognition.

Behind the scenes: To finalize that agreement, Trump called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his meeting on Friday with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

  • The Israeli statement said that Kosovo would establish an embassy in Jerusalem, making it the first Muslim-majority country to do so.
  • Israel had never recognized Kosovo — which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 — in part because it did not want to legitimize the recognition of Palestine. It's unclear why Netanyahu's position has shifted.
  • Serbia — which has waged a campaign to pressure countries not to recognize Kosovo — clarified that it did not approve of Israeli recognition of Kosovo, one of several indications that much remained unresolved following the summit.

Between the lines: This unorthodox outcome of a summit between Balkan nations underlines the administration's push to help Israel build deeper diplomatic links around the world, and its desire to score wins where it can before November's election.

The other side: Serbia ruled out what would have been a landmark achievement — mutual recognition with Kosovo — ahead of the summit, and reiterated on Friday that such an agreement was out of the question.

  • The countries did sign what Trump called an "economic normalization" agreement in the Oval Office.
  • But Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told Serbian media that he had signed a bilateral deal with the U.S., not with Kosovo.
  • Richard Grenell, Trump's envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, later clarified that Serbia and Kosovo had signed separate documents that were nearly identical, while Trump had signed a third document signaling his approval for the initiative.
  • Grenell traded barbs with reporters, whom he accused of failing to recognize the significance of the economic agreements.
  • National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien added that Serbia and Kosovo would freeze their de-recognition campaigns for a year, to provide "breathing room" for negotiations on that issue.

Background: Along with Grenell, O'Brien and Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner have been involved in the Serbia-Kosovo process, U.S. officials say.

  • The three met with Vucic in Washington in March on the sidelines of the AIPAC conference and raised at the time the issue of moving the Serbian Embassy to Jerusalem.
  • In his AIPAC speech, Vucic stopped short of announcing that step but said Serbia would open a commercial office in the city.

What to watch: The EU has long overseen negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, and the White House initiative has moved in parallel with that process.

  • Vucic and Hoti are scheduled to travel to Brussels on Monday for additional talks, per AP.

Worth noting: This White House summit was previously slated for June, but was delayed after Kosovo's president, Hashim Thaci, was charged with war crimes.

Go deeper

Nov 8, 2020 - World

Netanyahu joins other leaders in congratulating Biden for beating Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump in the East Room of the White House in January. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

More than 12 hours after the U.S. television networks called the presidential race for Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his congratulations to the president-elect.

Why it matters: Israel is one of the main allies of the U.S., but Netanyahu’s congratulatory tweet came long after most leaders around the world had already congratulated Biden.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.