Turkey is an EU candidate country and a NATO member, whose location allows it to position itself as a key 'energy bridge' between the East and West. The U.S. views Turkey as a vital interlocutor for solving regional conflicts in Caucasus, Middle East and Iraq. Turkey took part in efforts to broker a Gaza cease-fire and in 2008 played a mediating role in Syrian-Israeli talks and in the U.S.-Iran standoff. Ankara also pushed for co-operation in Caucasus in the aftermath of the Georgian crisis and started talks with Armenia, with whom Turkey cut all diplomatic relations in 1993.
Already a NATO, OECD, Council of Europe and Western European Union (WEU) member, Turkey signed a customs union with the EU in 1995 and by 1999, amid a major expansion of EU membership in the former Soviet bloc, Brussels officially recognized Turkey as a candidate. But others have leap-frogged Turkey in the EU queue, and sentiment in Turkey itself has cooled in the face of the stalled EU accession process.