Kosovo president says he doesn’t fear war crime charges

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Hashim Thaci

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci greets former members of the so-called Kosovo Liberation army, which fought for independence from Serbia, and other supporters waiting for his return at the border crossing points in Vrmice, Kosovo, Friday, July 17, 2020. Thaci was warmly welcomed by supporters upon return from the Netherlands where he was questioned by prosecutors at a special international court on alleged crimes during the 1998-1999 war after which his country won independence from Serbia. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The president of Kosovo told the nation Saturday that his indictment on war crimes will not hamper the country’s future and also urged political parties to unite behind talks on normalizing ties with neighboring Serbia.

President Hashim Thaci held a television address after returning from four days of questioning by prosecutors at a special international court in The Hague, Netherlands, on alleged crimes during and after the Balkan nation’s 1998-1999 war.

Thaci was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation army, which fought for independence from Serbia in 1998-1999.

The war killed more than 10,000 people — most of them ethnic Albanians — and 1,641 are still unaccounted for. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.

Kosovo, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move that the Serbian government in Belgrade doesn’t recognize.

Prosecutors have charged Thaci, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli and still unidentified others with crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture. Both men have denied committing any crimes.

“My duty is to defend Kosovo by not allowing that the process I’ve been included in unjustly to become an obstacle for the work towards a better future for Kosovo,” said Thaci.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, a court which has international staff working under Kosovo law, is mandated to look into allegations that KLA members committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. A pretrial judge hasn’t made a decision on whether to proceed with Thaci’s case.

The president, who has said he will resign if the judge proceeds with the case, urged ordinary people and politicians in Kosovo “to build the path of democratic and multi-ethnic coexistence” so that their “we make our democracy stronger, improve well-being, and build bridges of lasting peace between each other and our neighbors.”

The June 24 announcement of Thaci’s indictment caused the cancelation of a White House meeting between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia. Earlier this year Washington persuaded Belgrade and Pristina to agree on air, railway and road deals, trying to make economic cooperation the path of their future normalization of relations.

On Thursday, Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels to resume European Union-facilitated face-to-face talks on normalizing ties that had been frozen since November 2018.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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