President Biden has nominated former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to be his ambassador to Turkey, the White House announced Tuesday.
“Given the strategic importance of the United States’ relationship with our long-time NATO Ally, the Republic of Turkey, I am honored and humbled by the trust President Biden has placed in me with this ambassadorial nomination,” Flake wrote in a Medium post shortly before the White House confirmed his nomination.
“This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries,” Flake continued, adding that he is “grateful for the opportunity to serve, and eager to get to know the extraordinary people of Turkey.”
Biden’s nomination of an envoy to Turkey comes as the president works to stabilize strained relations between Washington and Anakra. Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the NATO summit in June where he said the two held a “positive and productive meeting.”
The U.S. and Turkey are NATO allies and Ankara has offered assistance in securing Kabul’s airport as the Biden administration finishes its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Turkey also hosts an estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees and is the staging ground in delivering international humanitarian assistance across the Syrian border.
But the two countries remain at odds on a number of fronts, including Turkey’s possession of a Russian missile defense system, the S-400, criticism of Erdoğan stifling political opposition and jailing dissidents, while also accusing an American citizens of masterminding a 2016 coup in the country.
Flake’s nomination will go to the Senate, where he served for six years before retiring in 2019, for confirmation. Before the Senate, Flake served in the House for 12 years.
He sat on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee during his time in Congress.
“If confirmed by the Senate, I will be pleased to join a strong, experienced and capable team representing U.S. interests abroad. Having served in both the U.S. House and Senate, I understand and appreciate the role Congress plays in U.S. foreign policy, and I look forward to that partnership,” Flake wrote.
“I also understand the value of having America speak with one voice. Having lived overseas, I have a deep appreciation for the indispensable role that the United States plays around the world. There is no substitute for U.S. leadership,” Flake wrote.
Flake, a Republican, noted the bipartisan nature of his nomination to a Democratic administration, writing that his “belief” and “commitment” is that “U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan.”
“With this nomination, the Biden Administration reaffirms the best tradition of American foreign policy and diplomacy: the credo that partisan politics should stop at the water’s edge. U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan. That is my belief as well, and my commitment,” he added.
Flake was a vocal critic of former President Trump throughout his tenure in Congress.
He criticized the state of the Republican Party and the then-president during a speech announcing his retirement in 2017, telling his colleagues “It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets … has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party.”
“It’s also clear to me for the moment that we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment,” he added.
The Arizona Republic reported first reported on Flake’s nomination.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) praised Biden’s pick for ambassador to Turkey, and said he will support Flake’s nomination to the post.
In the six years we served together on SFRC, Sen. Flake & I traveled to more than a dozen countries, we legislated together repeatedly, & worked through dozens of hearings together. I am confident Jeff will serve our nation well & I look forward to supporting his nomination. https://t.co/qht5d3N1Jb — Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) July 13, 2021
Flake’s nomination comes after Biden last month chose Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to serve as U.S. representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, a position that comes with the rank of ambassador.
Biden on Tuesday also nominated former Pentagon official Alan Estevez as the Commerce Department’s under secretary for industry and security, and former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, who served at the state’s chief executive from 2007 until 2011, to be a member of the board of directors of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.