Hashim Thaci, former leader of the Albanian underground movement in Kosovo, was sworn in as the young country’s new President during a ceremony in the capital Pristina on Friday.
Thaci, 47, formerly served as the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. His election by the Kosovar parliament at the end of February was accompanied by strong protest from opposition parties.
The Kosovar Nationalist opposition is against Thaci's reconciliation policies vis-à-vis Serbia and Kosovo's Serbian minority. They were especially opposed to his decision to grant autonomy to Kosovo's Serbian minority.
In an interview with Ynet, Thaci expressed his hope to be the first President of the Republic of Kosovo to visit Israel. However, Israel has avoided recognizing Kosovo following its unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008, as it might be seen as embracing such a precedence, and have possible inconvenient implications for Israeli-Palestinian relations. Nevertheless, the two countries have warmed to each other over the past two years.
"I am interested in working on developing our relations with Israel, to promote the relations between the citizens of the two nations until the moment that Israel feels comfortable with recognizing us," President Thaci said.
He continued, saying, "All of Israel's allies recognize Kosovo. Yet it's ironic that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority recognizes our independence. The PA even voted against Kosovo joining UNESCO. I am prepared to help deal with the preconceptions of the case at hand, and work with the Israeli leadership in order to increase our friendly relations. As foreign minister I initiated the establishment of the Kosovar relations office in Israel. I hope to be the first President to visit Israel in order to officially inaugurate this office."
Thaci explained that he has visited Israel in the past, when he was the head of the opposition under the Serbian dictatorial regime. "I hope to visit Israel again. Kosovo has a long and historic connection to Israel and with Jews all over the world. In 2003 I even inaugurated a statue in Pristina commemorating all of the Kosovar Jews who were killed in the Holocaust."
Hundreds of Jews were saved from the Nazis by ethnic Albanian Muslims in Kosovo during Wrld War Two.