Serbia is boycotting a business conference in Maryland because Kosovo was invited, according to a senior State Department official.
"I have to say this disappoints us not as a political matter, but as an economic matter," said Thomas Countryman, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. The U.S. sees the move as a slap in the face, he said.
Serbia will be the only country from south central Europe not participating in the conference, which is being held later this month in Baltimore. Serbia and Kosovo are set to begin talks Tuesday on ending their long-standing political battle.
"To see Serbia boycotting the conference and discouraging Serbian businessmen from participating with several hundred other investors and business men from the U.S. and the region sends the wrong message," Countryman said on Tuesday. "It puts politics above economics, and undermines what has been a sincere effort by both Belgrade and Washington to build a better economic relationship between the two of us."