PRISTINA -- Kosovar President Hashim Thaci says he will “immediately resign” if a judge in The Hague confirm war-crimes charges filed against him, including crimes against humanity, stemming from Kosovo’s war of independence in 1998-99.
In a prerecorded address to the nation, Thaci rejected the “false” accusations against him and said: “My heart is hurt, but not broken. My mind weighs heavy, but is not bleary. My blood is heated, but clean,” according to a transcript distributed by his office.
He also vowed to consult with Kosovo’s political leaders in the following days to discuss “the next steps.”
The Kosovar president delivered his address in the wake an indictment being announced by a special prosecutor's office in The Hague on June 24, alleging that Thaci and another senior Kosovar politician, Kadri Veseli, are among those "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders" and other wrongdoing involving "hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and including political opponents."
Thaci commanded guerrilla forces under the banner of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the conflict.
A pretrial judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague has until October to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial based on the 10-count indictment, according to the statement from the Special Prosecutor's Office.
In his address to the nation, Thaci said "there has not been and could not be even a single piece of evidence" against him.
He also blasted the prosecutor's decision to announce the indictment before it has been confirmed by the court, calling the move a "massive scandal."
"No crime, alleged or even committed, by anyone, justifies public lynching," he added.
Veseli has also proclaimed his innocence.
Earlier in the day, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama made an unexpected visit to neighboring Kosovo, which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population, to meet with Thaci, Veseli, and other Kosovar leaders.
After arriving in Pristina, Rama tweeted that the indictment was a "shameful stain of 21st century" world justice.
After the indictment was announced, a planned meeting between the Kosovar president and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, at the White House was postponed. The meeting, which had been scheduled to take place on June 27, was aimed at kickstarting suspended talks on normalizing relations between the two neighbors.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and is recognized by more than 110 countries, but not by Belgrade.
"I do not know whether it was chance or intrigue that, midway toward the White House, the notification for an unconfirmed indictment was released," Thaci said on June 29.
Thaci said the meeting being called off was "a strong blow to the opportunity of achieving peace between Kosovo and Serbia."
On June 27, Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said his government remains "committed” to the normalization process with Serbia.
Speaking to reporters after his return from Brussels, Hoti said he and the U.S. special presidential envoy, Richard Grenell, had agreed on "another date which will be soon" for the continuation of negotiations.
Meanwhile, France and Germany have indicated their willingness to co-host a summit with the Kosovar and Serbian leaders in Paris.