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PM Hoti Says Kosovo 'Committed' To U.S.-Led Talks With Serbia Despite Thaci Blow


Avdullah Hoti

Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti on June 27 said his government remains "committed to the process" despite the sudden postponement of a U.S.-mediated Serbia-Kosovo presidential summit hoping to chip away at nearly two years of diplomatic deadlock.

Speaking to reporters after his return from Brussels, Hoti said he was in "intensive communication" with U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Balkan peace talks and that they agreed on "another date which will be soon" for the continuation of negotiations.

"Despite the changes of the agenda over the last days, when it comes to the dialogue [with Belgrade], we, as the government, remain committed to the process," Hoti said.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci abandoned plans to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the White House this weekend after a special prosecutor's office in The Hague announced indictments for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity against Thaci and other Kosovars on June 24.

Led by special presidential envoy Richard Grenell, Washington had hoped to further their efforts to kickstart suspended talks on normalizing relations between Serbia and its former autonomous province, which declared independence in 2008 and is recognized by more than 110 countries.

But Washington's plans appeared to depend heavily on Thaci's ability to negotiate on behalf of Kosovo's nearly 2 million people.

Serbia 'Restraint'

Vucic said from Brussels on June 26 that Belgrade would show restraint in its response to the news.

"For us, the most important thing is to be restrained. We know terrible crimes have happened. In everything else, we have to show restraint and by it, we will be protecting Serbs in Kosovo from any kind of violence, incidents, and attacks," Vucic said.

The charges date back to alleged activities during and after Kosovo's war of independence in 1998-99, when Thaci commanded guerrilla forces under the banner of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

A pretrial judge still must 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. It alleges that he 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 include political opponents."

Thaci and Veseli have proclaimed their innocence.

The topic of war crimes continues to bedevil relations in many Balkan countries since the fighting of the 1990s that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.

"The liberation war of the Kosovo people, of course, it is the biggest achievement of our efforts to win independence," Hoti told journalists on June 27, after his return from Brussels. "Such a war is sacred for the Kosovo people."

Thaci and other Kosovar officials assented to the establishment of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Special Prosecutor's Office five years ago to pursue serious crimes alleged in a Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report from 2011.

"Nobody can rewrite the history of Kosovo," Thaci wrote in both English and Albanian in a post on Instagram on June 26, his first public comments after the indictment was announced.

With reporting by AP
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