Kosovo President charged with war crimes cancels White House visit

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi takes part in a tribute ceremony at a statue of a late Kosovo Liberation Army commander in Pristina on June 11, 2020.

(CNN)Kosovan President Hashim Thaci has been indicted for war crimes allegedly committed during the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, leading him to cancel a planned trip to the White House this weekend for talks with Serbian leaders.

The charges against Thaci were announced Wednesday by a special court at The Hague, in the Netherlands.
According to a press statement, the Specialist Prosecutor's Office filed a 10-count indictment on April 24 that accuses Thaci, Kadri Veseli, the former Chairman of the Assembly of Kosovo, and others of "a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture."
    It added that a pre-trial judge was reviewing the indictment "to decide on whether to confirm the charges."
    Kosovo declared independence from Serbia a decade after the bloody conflict between Serb forces and Kosovar-Albanian rebels began. The war, from 1998 to 1999, led to thousands of deaths and the displacement of nearly 90% of Kosovo's population.
    Thaci came to prominence as a leading figure in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) between 1997 and 1999 and played a part in peace negotiations.
    His transition from a revolutionary into a politician eventually led to him to becoming Prime Minister when independence was declared. He was elected President in February 2016.
    Wednesday's indictment alleges that Thaci, Veseli and other charged suspects "are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders. The crimes alleged in the Indictment involve hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents," the statement said.
    CNN has reached out to the offices of Thaci and of Veseli, who is president of the Kosovo Democratic Party, for comment.
    Kosovo's Ambassador to the US Vlora Çitaku said in a tweet that "When the dust settles & the smoke clears, #KLA will remain the most successful liberation movement in modern history."
    The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) and Specialist Prosecutor's Office (SPO) was set up to have jurisdiction over war crimes committed in the Kosovo conflict between January 1998 and December 2000.
    Thaci was due to visit the White House for talks with Serbian representatives but canceled his trip following the SPO announcement, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations, Richard Grenell, tweeted Wednesday.
    The United States is among more than 100 countries to recognize Kosovo as an independent, sovereign state, according to the US State Department. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence.
    "I respect his decision not to attend the discussions until the legal issues of those allegations are settled," Grenell said. Saturday's discussions would be led by Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the US envoy added.
    However, Hoti -- who took office only three weeks ago -- said Thursday that he could not travel to Washington in light of developm