On Wednesday, an international prosecutor charged the Kosovo president and nine other former separatist fighters on war crimes charges for their actions during and after Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war of independence with Serbia.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci postponed his trip to Washington, DC, where he was expected to meet on Saturday to speak at the White House with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the first talks between the two sides in 19 months.
“The President of Kosovo has just informed us that he canceled his trip to Washington, DC after the announcement made by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. I respect his decision not to attend the discussions until the legal problems of these accusations are resolved,” Richard Grenell tweeted. , sent from the United States for the Kosovo talks.
The Kosovo Chamber of Specialists prosecutor said Thaci and the other nine “are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders” involving hundreds of Serb and Roma victims, as well as Kosovo Albanian political opponents.
A trial judge in The Hague-based court is studying the accusation. If there is sufficient evidence to support the charges, the trial judge will confirm it.
Thaci was a commander of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who fought for the independence of Serbia in a war that left more than 10,000 dead, most of them ethnic Albanian. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.
The former ethnic-dominated province of Albania declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia did not recognize.
The accused group includes Kadri Veseli, a former speaker of parliament and leader of the opposition Kosovo Democratic Party. Veseli said the accusation is politically motivated, given the announcement that came just days before the White House meeting.
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Several senior Serbian officials and military officers have been sentenced to prison by a different war crimes tribunal in The Hague for crimes committed by Serbian troops during the war.
“The court is trying to taint our liberating war, our aspiration for freedom and independence and to legalize (Serbian) crimes in Kosovo,” Bardhyl Mahmuti, a former KLA political representative, told RTK public television station.
The prosecutor filed the indictment after a lengthy investigation and reflects his “determination that he can prove all charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement said. The prosecutor also accused Thaci and Veseli of repeated efforts “to obstruct and undermine the work” of the court.
Kosovo politicians resisted and resented the scrutiny of the war crimes tribunal, repeatedly pointing out that Serbian troops committed massacres and other atrocities during the war that went unpunished.
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Tensions between the two countries remain high. Negotiations facilitated by the European Union to normalize their relations began in March 2011 and have produced some 30 agreements, most of which were not fulfilled.
Associated Press contributed to this report..