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After Hague Indictments, Kosovo's PM Cancels Washington Talks With Serbia's President

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Avdullah Hoti

Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti has canceled his participation in U.S.-brokered talks with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic that had been scheduled at the White House in Washington on June 27.

The move comes a day after a prosecutor at The Hague indicted Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, former parliamentary chairman Kadri Veseli, and “others” for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during or after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

"Due to the new developments in Pristina as a result of the indictment submitted by the Specialized Prosecutor's Office, I have to return to my country to deal with the situation," Hoti tweeted on June 25 from Brussels, where he was scheduled to meet with European officials.

Both Hoti and Thaci had been scheduled to meet in Washington with Serbia's president for talks aimed at normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

Thaci's office said on June 24 after the indictments were announced that the Kosovar president was cutting short his trip to the United States and would be back in Kosovo on June 25.

The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) at The Hague said on June 24 that Thaci, Veseli, and others "are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders," as well as the "enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture."

Hoti was still going ahead with his meetings in Brussels on June 25 with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, and Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister.

'Hundreds Of Known Victims'

Those talks were expected to focus on Kosovo's response to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission’s support for economic recovery, and visa liberalization for citizens of Kosovo, Hoti said on Facebook on June 22.

Speaking in Brussels on June 25, Hoti said he'd made the decision to cancel his trip to Washington in consultation with Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo negotiations.

Hoti also said there was "no alternative" to dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, adding that Kosovo had proper institutional prudence to overcome any situation it faced.

"Issues related to justice, such as yesterday's decision, I believe should not be commented on," Hoti said. "But they should be fully respected."

The White House meeting between Hoti, Thaci, and Vucic had been announced on June 15 by Grenell after he'd received commitments from both countries to attend the meeting.

Grenell said on Twitter on June 24 that he respected Thaci's decision not to attend the White House talks "until the legal issues of those allegations are settled."

There was no immediate reaction from Washington to Hoti's cancellation.

The SPO said the indictments against Thaci and Veseli were for alleged crimes against "hundreds of known victims" -- including "Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and [including] political opponents."

Thaci and Veseli were commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that fought against Belgrade's security forces in the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

Veseli, who currently leads the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and continues to serve as a lawmaker, denied "any involvement in any crime" and said he is "proud to have taken part in the liberation war of the Kosovo people."

Veseli rejected the prosecutor's claims as "completely untrue."

Thaci has previously denied involvement in any war crimes.

A 10-count indictment was filed with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) in The Hague on April 24. The prosecutor decided to unveil them publicly two months later.

Prosecutors said the charges resulted from a "lengthy investigation" and they were confident they can prove "all charges beyond a reasonable doubt."

A KSC pretrial judge is currently reviewing the indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.

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