WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Bilateral relations can not be normalized without the United States returning to Russia the diplomatic property it has confiscated, Sergey Koshelev, Minister-Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Washington, said.”Today, there are no prospects to say that tomorrow we will be able to come up with a solution to the problem [of bilateral relations]. … Our position is that any normalization of relations can occur only after the unconditional return to Russia of all of its confiscated property,” Koshelev said in an interview with RTVI on Friday.Koshelev also said besides returning the six diplomatic facilities confiscated by the United States over the past several years, Russia also demands compensation for all financial losses it has suffered that can reach thousands of dollars.Over the past several years, Russian diplomats asked the US government 470 times to provide access to the confiscated facilities in order to make an inventory and determine their condition, he said.
For Moscow, the issue of its taken diplomatic property is the most acute irritant in the relations with Washington that are already at a low level and can be characterized as being in “deep crisis,” Koshelev said.
A row between the United States and Russia over the latter’s diplomatic properties erupted in December 2016, when outgoing US President Barack Obama closed two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland and expelled 35 Russian diplomats.In 2017, the administration of President Donald Trump shut down the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco as well as the trade missions in New York City and Washington in response to Moscow’s decision to reduce the number of US diplomatic staff in Russia.The United States also closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle the following year over allegations that Moscow was involved in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom. State Department officials entered the residence of the Russian consul by breaking all the locks there.Russia said the US actions are in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations as well as other aspects of international law.
Russia and the United States have a chance to reach a compromise solution regarding the problem of issuing US visas in Russia as diplomats from both countries are meeting on a weekly basis to resolve the issue, Sergey Koshelev said.”We are currently talking with the State Department on a weekly basis and we are trying to solve all operational questions in coordination between the embassy and State Department’s Russian bureau,” Koshelev told RTVI on Friday.Koshelev added that diplomacy is the “art of communicating” and there is a chance to solve the visas issue as long as the diplomats from both countries are talking.Senior Russian and US diplomats will meet in the near future to discuss a normalization of consular affairs, Sergey Koshelev added.
“In the near future, we expect a meeting between the heads of the Russian bureau in the State Department and the US department in the Russian Foreign Ministry,” Koshelev told RTVI on Friday. “We hope that the meeting, which we call a consultation on bilateral irritants, will take place and we will be able to discuss issues related to normalization of consular affairs.”