New US envoy to Turkey Flake to take office on January 7

Former Senator Jeff Flake, the new US Ambassador to Turkey, is expected to arrive in the capital Ankara on January 7 and officially take office after presenting his credentials to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

US President Joe Biden, who took office on January 20, 2021, announced in July that the former Republican Senator from Arizona would be appointed the new US Ambassador to Turkey, replacing veteran diplomat David Satterfield, who has been working in Ankara since August 2019..

Biden’s decision to send a politician to Ankara instead of a career State Department diplomat raised eyebrows and was seen as a response to the Turkish government sending another politician, Murat Mercan, Washington.

Flake’s nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 16 and the Senate General Assembly on October 26 with the joint approval of Republican and Democratic members. The former senator was officially sworn in at the ceremony on December 7, with the participation of US Vice President Kamala Harris.

It is said that Flake, who will assume the duties of ambassador in the process of normalizing recent Turkish-American relations, will travel to Ankara and use his political influence to initiate dialogue among the allies in order to overcome the current problems.

However, Turkey’s purchase of an advanced Russian S-400 air defense system and Washington’s support for the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist, the YPG, will dominate the agenda.

As BBC Turkish reported, Ankara does not expect Satterfield’s replacement with a political appointment to have a negative impact on relations. Rather, the new ambassador is expected to contribute to the process of dialogue and consultation that began after the Biden administration took office and continued with two face-to-face meetings between the leaders.

Flake, who is expected to depart from the rules of diplomatic rhetoric and use more political language, has not shown hostility towards Turkey in the past. The fact that he did not support the Armenian Genocide Bill introduced by Democrats in 2014 is also a positive indicator. However, the new ambassador’s lack of knowledge and experience regarding Turkey and the vast region around him is seen as a downside.

Appointed in mid-July, Flake was a key Republican ally for Biden during the White House race last year and endorsed the then Democratic candidate after establishing himself as a Republican at odds with the former President Donald Trump.

Flake served on both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his tenure in Congress, spanning nearly two decades. Flake served in the United States Senate for Arizona from 2013 to 2019 and the United States House from 2001 to 2013.

Flake retired from the Senate at the end of his term in 2019, saying he was out of step with the Republican Party during the days of former President Donald Trump. He then wrote a book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” which was a critique of Trump.

Ties between Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, were severely strained in 2019 due to Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400 advanced air defense system, prompting Washington to withdraw Turkey of its F-35 Lightning II aircraft program. The United States argued that the system was incompatible with NATO systems and could be used by Russia to secretly obtain classified information on the F-35 jets. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and pose no threat to the alliance.

In December 2020, the United States decided to impose sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of Russian-made missile defense systems. Flake said in September that Turkey could face more sanctions if it purchases additional S-400 missiles from Russia.

On the other hand, Ankara maintains that the biggest challenge facing Turkey-U.S. Relations is not the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, but rather Washington’s support for the United States. YPG.

The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the United States, Turkey and the European Union, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a shock to bilateral relations with Ankara. The United States has mainly partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria to fight the terrorist group Daesh. On the other hand, Turkey has strongly opposed the presence of the YPG in northern Syria, which poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes the local population, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.

Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the United States provided military training and military support trucks to the YPG, despite the security concerns of its NATO ally. Emphasizing that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Turkey has carried out its own counterterrorism operations, in which it has succeeded in driving large numbers of terrorists out of the region.

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