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    Former US deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Bryza in an interview to RIA Novosti suggested a format that could contribute to the improvement of uneasy relations between Washington and Ankara and expressed his views regarding the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project as well as touching upon US-Russia ties.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — According to Matthew Bryza, the United States and Turkey should establish a mechanism of consultations between senior officials of both countries to improve their bilateral relations, since a "personal meeting between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not help to settle the problems." The diplomat believes that US and Turkey's leaders are unlikely to understand each other's feelings and concerns.

    READ MORE: Unresolvable Contradictions: How the US and Turkey Parted Ways

    Bryza suggested that it could be a format similar to the meetings between Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, who "have to come together to talk through difficult issues."

    Volker was appointed US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations in early July soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump met in Hamburg. Since then, Volker and Surkov have held a number of talks, focusing on the Ukrainian crisis, with the most recent meeting being held on Monday.

    The US diplomat characterized US-Turkey relations as "very poor", noting that "both sides discuss the same subjects but do not speak the same language."

    Relations between Ankara and Washington have significantly worsened in recent months amid a number of issues, such as the problems related to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the US state of Pennsylvania, and is accused of a coup attempt by Turkey, US support of Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington.

    In October, the State Department announced the suspension of all non-immigrant visa services at US diplomatic missions in Turkey after the arrest of US Istanbul Consulate employee Metin Topuz over his alleged affiliation with FETO, a terrorist group which belongs to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara slammed the decision, and stopped visas services for Americans at its missions in the US in response.

    Turkish Stream

    Matthew Bryza, who is a board member of Turkey's Turcas Petrol gas distributing company, told RIA Novosti that he regarded the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline not only as a geopolitical but also as an economic project though the primary motivation is still geopolitical.

    Ankara has a lot of geopolitical reasons embedded in the new gas pipeline project, because it wants to maintain good relations with Russia, as well as to increase natural gas supply to the country, Bryza explained.

    Speaking of the project's benefits from Russia's prospective, the diplomat noted that the Turkish Stream would allow Russian gas transit to Europe to bypass the use of Ukrainian facilities, thus saving billions of dollars per year in transit fees.

    READ MORE: Diplomatic Drama: 'This is Certainly the Biggest Crisis in US-Turkish Relations'

    The Turkish Stream project was announced in late 2014 by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his state visit to Turkey. However, in November 2015, the project was suspended after a Russian Su-24 aircraft was downed by a Turkish F-16 fighter in Syria.

    The subsequent thaw in Moscow-Ankara relations, following Turkey's apology, led to conclusion of a bilateral intergovernmental agreement in October 2016, envisioning the construction of two underwater legs of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline in the Black Sea, as well as a leg, laid on the ground. The pipe-laying work under the project is expected to end by late 2019.

    US-Russian Relations

    Amid the setback in relationship between Washington and Moscow, Matthew Bryza noted that the positive cooperation with Russia was not considered as a goal in Washington, but the situation should improve in the future.

    US-Russia relations have been strained recently and continue to sour amid the ongoing investigations into allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Russia has repeatedly rejected the US accusations, calling them absurd and intended to deflect the public's attention away from actual instances of election fraud and corruption as well as other issues. The probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia started more than a year ago, however it still has not produced any substantial proof of Russian interference.

    READ MORE: US Hopes Relations With Russia Have Already Reached Low Point

    As a perfect example of possible close cooperation between Moscow and Washington, Bryza, who also served as US ambassador to Azerbaijan and US mediator of South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts, cited the joint efforts to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

    "We are completely opposing each other on the Georgia conflicts, but completely together on Nagorno-Karabakh," Bryza said.

    Russia, the United States and France are co-chairing the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan's Armenian-dominated breakaway region. Within the framework of this group, negotiations on a peace settlement have been conducted since 1992. The latest major escalation of violence occured in 2016, leading to multiple casualties on both sides. The sides soon reached a ceasefire but clashes continue.

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    Tags:
    bilateral relations, Turkish Stream gas pipeline, Kurt Volker, Donald Trump, Vladislav Surkov, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, United States, Russia
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