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Kosovo President Hashim Thaci in 2018. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Kosovo's president, Hashim Thaci, has cancelled a visit to the White House this weekend after being charged with war crimes "including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution and torture" by prosecutors in the Hague.

Driving the news: The White House meeting is part of an effort by the Trump administration to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough between Serbia and Kosovo. It will be led by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, according to President Trump’s envoy for dialogue between the countries, Richard Grenell.

The backstory: The alleged war crimes took place during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War, in which Thaci was among the leaders of a guerilla campaign against Serbian forces under Slobodan Milošević — the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes.

  • Kadri Veseli, a former parliamentary speaker, was also charged by a special prosecutor investigating crimes during the war.
  • Both men deny the allegations. The prosecutor's office has accused them of attempting to "obstruct and undermine" the probe.
  • Thaci became prime minister after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but has been dogged throughout his political career by allegations of criminal activity.

Where things stand: Serbia and Kosovo have been locked in a territorial dispute since 2008.

  • More recently, Serbia launched a de-recognition campaign to undermine Kosovo’s international legitimacy, while Kosovo placed 100% tariffs on Serbian goods.
  • Those policies have been halted, and the Trump administration now hopes to engineer a deeper diplomatic breakthrough.
  • The political stakes are exceedingly high in both Serbia and Kosovo. Hoti's predecessor, Albin Kurti, criticized Grenell's efforts, claiming he wants a "quick fix between the two presidents, and he doesn’t care very much about the contents."

The big picture: While Kosovo’s main goal is mutual recognition and UN membership, Serbia will not recognize Kosovo without major concessions, Ryan Scherba of Balkan Insider tells Axios.

  • In an interview with AP, Vučić said he would reject a deal whereby Kosovo enters the UN and “we receive nothing in return, except EU membership.”

What to expect: Grenell has emphasized that this week’s discussion will center around economics, while the EU will focus on political aspects of the dispute.

  • He said land swaps would not be part of the discussion, and attributed "rumors" around that highly controversial idea to freelancing by former national security adviser John Bolton.
  • The discussions could produce smaller deals like those reached in February to restore air and rail links between Belgrade and Pristina, but don’t expect a grand, final deal at the White House, Scherba says.

The latest: Serbia held parliamentary elections Sunday that were boycotted by the opposition and saw Vučić’s party win 63% of the vote, giving him complete power over dialogue with Kosovo.

  • Vučić discussed the Kosovo issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Belgrade on Thursday, and he'll travel to Moscow days before his White House visit for the annual Victory Day parade. 

Go deeper

Biden to Trump: My son "wasn't a sucker"

During a speech on the latest jobs report, Joe Biden directly addressed President Trump for reportedly calling American war heroes "losers" and "suckers," slamming Trump with a personal anecdote about his late son, Beau.

What they're saying: "When my son volunteered to join the United States military, as the attorney general, and went to Iraq for the year — won the bronze star and other commendations — he wasn’t a sucker," Biden said.

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.