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Israeli foreign minister begins diplomatic tour of southern Europe

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will travel to Serbia, Italy, and Vatican City.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen attends a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen attends a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is traveling to Serbia, Italy and Vatican City as part of a diplomatic tour that kicked off on Wednesday.

Cohen arrived in the morning in Belgrade, marking the first visit of Israel’s most senior diplomat to the Serbian capital since 2009. “This is the first political visit after about three years of stagnation in relations between the countries,” the foreign ministry noted, referring to the dispute over Israel’s 2020 establishment of diplomatic relations with Kosovo.

Kosovo is a former Serbian province and not recognized as a state by Belgrade and its major allies Russia and China. Kosovo and Serbia were locked in a bitter war between 1998 and 1999.

“During the visit, Minister Cohen will meet with the President of Serbia, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Speaker of the Serbian Parliament. In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will hold a memorial ceremony at the site of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Staro Sajmiste where tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma were murdered,” the statement added.

On Thursday, Cohen will visit Rome, where he is scheduled to meet with his Italian counterpart, as well as Italy’s deputy prime minister.

In Vatican City, Cohen is expected to sit down with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States. The last time an Israeli foreign minister visited the Vatican was in 2011. Pope Francis traveled to Israel nine years ago, but canceled a 2022 visit amid a wave of Palestinian terror attacks.

Notably, the pontiff met with the families of Israelis being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip late last year.

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