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Güner Ureya: There are opportunities for collaboration

Güner Ureya: There are opportunities for collaboration

Güner Ureya is the first Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to Bangladesh. He is also mandated to look after Nepal, though Kosovo and Nepal are yet to establish a formal diplomatic relationship. Kamal Dev Bhattarai of ApEx spoke with him during his recent Nepal visit. 

What is the status of Kosovo’s relation with South Asian countries?

As the first Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the People's Republic of Bangladesh, I followed the developments and general trends in other South Asian countries as well. I would like to emphasize that we are satisfied with our cordial relations with all South Asian countries that have so far recognized Kosovo. I’m following the remaining part of the region, including Nepal. I can say that we have the potential to develop official relations with Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. General developments in South Asian countries in recent years have drawn our attention. 

The cultural diversity and richness, but also the overall potential of South Asian countries with a population of around 1.9bn, are worth exploring more. Unfortunately, we as Kosovo do not have G2G and diplomatic relations with four South Asian nations, I mean with Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Especially in the Indian position, I saw the traces of the versions fabricated by our neighbor Serbia. We need to better explain to Indians about Serbia’s hegemonic policies and atrocities in former Yugoslavia, especially in Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, so they can understand us better. Another non-recognizer of Kosovo in South Asia is Nepal. I witnessed that Nepalis are very friendly to us, maybe because of similarities we have. On the other hand, our relationship with Sri Lanka is very similar to that of Nepal. I also tried to follow Colombo’s official position on us. Sri Lanka is open to communication, but unfortunately has not yet officially recognized Kosovo. Beside Kathmandu, New Delhi and Colombo, we always anticipate positive news from Thimphu as well.

How do you see the current state of Nepal-Kosovo relationship?

Nepal has yet to officially recognize the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, and the two nations do not have diplomatic ties. This suggests that the foundation for establishing formal diplomatic ties between the two nations has not yet been laid. Additionally, it means that the conditions remain limited for institutional cooperation and for having different win-win situations. It’s essential to note that, with a positive mindset from both sides, the landscape can change, and Kosovo-Nepal relations can evolve over time. So it is possible but it is also expected that Nepal will recognize Kosovo in the near future. So far, people-to-people contacts and cooperation between the civil societies of the two countries are more successful than our corporate initiatives. Regrettably, the current level of trade cooperation between the two countries is quite limited, but if we establish formal bilateral relations, it would naturally bring new prospects and opportunities for negotiating and implementing bilateral agreements across various sectors and collaborating on international platforms. 

The existence of these official relations would also shape public perceptions, fostering increased interest and closeness between the people, companies, artists, sports clubs, and other social entities, which is why we attach great importance to gaining recognition from Nepal and establishing diplomatic ties with your country. 

What are the areas of cooperation between Nepal and Kosovo?

To clarify, as an independent country, the Republic of Kosovo is actively seeking to enhance cooperation with reliable partners. There are significant opportunities for collaboration between Kosovo and Nepal. For instance, consider the case of Bangladesh, a South Asian nation, which recognized Kosovo a few years ago, and we have since developed a close and friendly relationship with them. Similarly, we aim to establish a similar bond with Nepal. The potential for cooperation extends to various sectors, including education, economy, and particularly agriculture. As a relatively new country, we have achieved notable success in sports, and we are keen to share our experiences with Nepal in this regard. 

To that end, we are persistently working to tell our narratives to Nepal. We want to convey that Kosovars share a deep love for peace, that we have a vibrant population with the youngest median age in Europe, and that there is ample room for us to develop both bilateral relations and collaborate on international platforms. Up to this point, individuals from civil society have played a crucial role in promoting our relationship. On the flip side, Kosovar companies have begun to recruit labor from South Asian countries, including Nepal, and they have expressed satisfaction with the overall performance and humanitarian behavior of Nepali employees.

Nepal is delaying to recognize Kosovo, what could be the reasons?

It's never too late. I hope recognition comes soon. Throughout my tenure of four years in South Asia, I have also tried to follow Kathmandu’s political position on us. I witnessed that Nepalese are very friendly to us. Kathmandu is open for communication. Unfortunately, it has yet to extend official recognition to the Republic of Kosovo's independence. As I’ve become more acquainted with Nepal over time, I’ve come to appreciate it as the homeland of friendly, proud, and respectful people. Nepalese individuals, in general, tend to approach decisions with care and caution but always exude friendliness, a positive aura, and a warm smile. 

Similar to Nepal, some other countries initially hesitated to recognize independence of Kosovo, but with time, they realized that recognizing the Republic of Kosovo was the right course of action. This recognition holds significance for peace and stability in the Balkan Peninsula, or, in other words, in Southeast Europe. The independence of the Republic of Kosovo rectified historical injustices, put an end to Serbian occupation, and brought peace and freedom to its people. We are aware that Serbia, a country with which we had fought for our freedom and still have disputes, employs various tactics and unfounded arguments to weaken Kosovo's international position. 

To put it briefly, Nepal is an independent, sovereign, free and egalitarian country, so it determines its foreign policy preferences. We all know that countries have their own set of priorities. Our hope is that Nepal officially recognizes Kosovo as soon as possible.

What are the similarities and differences between Nepal and Kosovo?

Nepal and Kosovo, two geographically distant countries, share notable similarities and few differences. We share several common experiences and characteristics. Both are landlocked countries, have multi-ethnic populations, mountainous terrain, and youthful demographics. Moreover, both Kosovo and Nepal boast breathtaking landscapes and dynamic societies. My perceptions of Nepal before were shaped by three elements: firstly, the civil war in the 90s; then, the Himalayas, especially Mount Everest; and also Gurkhas from Nepal, who served as peacekeepers after the war in Kosovo. It is not difficult for us to empathize with Nepal, because we have common elements that remind us of our suffering, but also of our qualities. 

Both countries and peoples have gone through difficult times. We have always tried to ease our pain by talking to the mountains and singing to the trees, rocks, and rivers. Although not as great as the Himalayas, our Sharr Mountains are nonetheless extremely lovely. As differences Nepal and Kosovo have their own historical narratives and political dynamics. These differences are unique and it reflects our distinct identities, cultures, and geopolitical contexts. Kosovo reflects a blend of Western and Eastern European influences, while Nepal boasts a rich tapestry of languages and customs of Eastern South Asia. 

Despite our differences, Nepal and Kosovo can develop close relations through various means, mainly diplomatic engagement, cultural exchange, economic cooperation, and people-to-people connections. Ultimately, trust, goodwill, and open communication are key to fostering close ties and cooperation between Nepal and Kosovo.

Could you tell us a little about the historical process so that our readers can understand it better?

To understand how Kosovo achieved independence, it is essential to comprehend its history. In 1989, Belgrade abolished Kosovo’s autonomy and two years later, as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) disintegrated, Kosovo lost its status as a federal entity in the ex-country with rights similar to those of the six republics. During the 1990s Kosovo and its institutions were under the Serbian occupation. Serbian authorities consistently discriminated against the majority of Kosovar population, excluding them from governance and public life, along with exclusion from the health and educational system.

In reaction, the Kosovo leadership under Ibrahim Rugova pursued a policy of peaceful resistance for several years, before the lack of progress led to the formation of the Kosovo Liberation Army and armed struggle. This, in turn, encouraged the Serbians to exercise more pressure against the Kosovars. Following a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement at Rambouillet, France, in March 1999, NATO decided to stop humanitarian crises in Kosovo and intervened in Serbian targets. During the Serbian atrocities more than half of the Kosovars became refugees or internally displaced. After the war, the problems were tried to be solved through negotiations. But after all the attempts, the UN special envoy, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, gave the green light for the status of Kosovo, as a ‘sui generis’ case. 

Although Serbia, Russia and some other countries insist on denying the truth, Kosovo's independence has become an irreversible fact. It should be noted that, more than half of member countries of the UN have recognized the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. The majority of these countries are geographically close to Kosovo and they realized that the case is unique and cannot be used as a precedent for other cases. 

In addition, they considered the peace and stability of the region as well as their own peace and stability. On the other side, the International Court of Justice ruled that the declaration of independence of Kosovo was not in violation of international