Serbia quashes talk of landmark visit by Kosovo ex-guerrilla

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 20, 2015 10:40 AM

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia has informed its former Kosovo province that Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci will be arrested if he tries to attend a conference in Belgrade this week in what would have been a landmark visit by the former guerrilla commander.

Thaci is invited to a civil society event on regional reconciliation in the Serbian capital on Friday. He had said he hoped to attend.

The prospect put Serbia's government in an awkward spot.

While it has negotiated with him for years in various European capitals, Thaci is officially wanted by Serbian police for his role in an armed uprising against Serbian repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority in the late 1990s.

Thaci, sentenced in absentia in 1997 to 10 years in a Serbian jail for "terrorism", went on to become prime minister of Kosovo, presiding over the territory's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and taking part in European Union-mediated negotiations aimed at settling relations between the two.

"The information is good; the Serbian government has made such a warning," a government official told Reuters on Monday, referring to a report on the local Beta news agency that Serbia had officially conveyed its intention to arrest Thaci if he turned up in Belgrade.

Thaci only last month shared coffee and a joke with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, underscoring the progress made by the EU in cooling tensions with the carrot of integration with the bloc.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Janet Lawrence)