- President Joe Biden has nominated Jeff Flake to be the US ambassador to Turkey.
- The former GOP senator would assume the role amid historic tensions between the US and Turkey.
- Turkey is a NATO ally, but Erdoğan’s leadership style has strained US-Turkey relations.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona to be the US ambassador to Turkey.
If confirmed by the Senate for the ambassadorship, Flake would assume the role at a time when US-Turkey relations have hit a historic low. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approach to leadership has strained the dynamic between Washington and Ankara in recent years.
Various foreign-policy moves Erdoğan has taken, such as targeting the US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria and purchasing the Russian S-400 missile-defense system, have exacerbated the tensions.
Biden and Erdoğan have also traded barbs from across the world and clashed on major issues on more than one occasion.
During the 2020 campaign season, the Turkish government expressed outrage after Biden referred to Erdoğan as an “autocrat.” More recently, Erdoğan in March excoriated Biden for referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer.” Erdoğan said that it was “truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached.” Biden’s formal recognition of the Armenian genocide in April also infuriated Erdoğan, with Turkey saying the move created a “deep wound” in relations.
That said, the US considers Turkey an important NATO ally, and Biden and his Turkish counterpart appeared to get along when they met face-to-face in Brussels last month for the first time since Biden’s inauguration. Biden said they had a “good” meeting.
Navigating this tense relationship as the top US diplomat in Ankara could prove a difficult task.
Flake, who retired from the Senate in 2019, is among the most high-profile ambassador nominees put forward by Biden.
“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 said in a Medium post on Tuesday. “This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries.”
He added: “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. US foreign policy can and should be bipartisan.”
Flake broke from the GOP during the 2020 election cycle and endorsed Biden over then-President Donald Trump. The Arizona Republican was among Trump’s most vocal critics in the Senate.
He continued to criticize Trump after leaving Congress and in February condemned Senate Republicans who voted to acquit the former president during his second impeachment trial over the fatal January 6 insurrection.