Kosovo president cancels US talks with Serbia after war charges

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, seen here in a January 2018 interview with AFP, has been charged with war crimes

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci will return home Thursday after war crime charges "interrupted" his planned trip to Washington to discuss tensions with Serbia, his office said Wednesday.

Special prosecutors in the Hague announced 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Thaci for his role in Kosovo's 1998-99 war with Serbia, accusing him and other allies of involvement in nearly 100 murders.

The talks with Serbia, which still refuses to recognize its former province's independence, will go ahead with the participation of Kosovo's new Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, US envoy Richard Grenell said.

"I respect his decision not to attend the discussions until the legal issues of those allegations are settled," Grenell, a former ambassador to Germany and US intelligence chief, wrote on Twitter.

Thaci's office did not specify his whereabouts.

But before the charges were announced he gave an interview in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and was headed from there to Frankfurt, the journalist who interviewed him told AFP.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is still expected to join this weekend's talks, which are set to take place at the White House but without President Donald Trump personally.

At the heart of the dispute is Serbia's rejection of Kosovo's independence, declared in 2008 by the province's ethnic Albanian majority after breaking away in a bloody war.

Hoti took charge earlier this month and quickly eased tensions by lifting a ban on Serbian imports.

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, seen here in a January 2018 interview with AFP, has been charged with war crimes