Biden picks Republican ex-Sen. Jeff Flake as U.S. ambassador to Turkey
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters about President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, on Capitol Hill, Washington, May 10, 2017.
“This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries,” the former senator wrote.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust President Biden has placed in me with this ambassadorial nomination,” Flake wrote in a post on Medium .
President Joe Biden is nominating former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona as his ambassador to Turkey, whose alliance with the U.S. has in recent years been marked by major disagreements on key foreign policy issues.
An administration official confirmed to NBC News that Biden planned to nominate Flake to the post.
Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met face to face in mid-June on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Both leaders left the bilateral meeting offering positive remarks but little indication that the two nations were any closer to overcoming their differences on a number of issues — including Ankara’s multibillion-dollar deal to buy a Russian surface-to-air missile system.
Flake, who served more than a decade in the House and a single term in the Senate, had clashed openly with then-President Donald Trump prior to leaving Congress in 2019.
He backed Biden over Trump in the 2020 election and was expected to be offered a post in the Democrat’s administration.
Flake was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He currently holds fellowship roles at Arizona State University and Brigham Young University and serves on the senior advisory committee at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
“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 on Medium.
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” Flake wrote.
His nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
“I had the pleasure of knowing and working closely with Jeff Flake in several ways during his service in the Senate,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement, NBC reported. “I told him that the President had made an outstanding choice.”
“Turkey has been an ally of the United States for many decades, and the American people have great respect and fondness for the Turkish people and for Turkey’s rich culture and history,” Leahy’s statement said. “Our relations with Turkey’[s] government have been fraught in more recent years by tensions over security matters and human rights policies.”
“Jeff is a perfect choice to work toward a more constructive relationship that would be good for both of our countries, for the region, and for the world,” Leahy said.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who won Flake’s Senate seat after he left Congress, applauded the Biden administration’s choice.
Flake, 58, isn’t the first Republican to be tapped by Biden for an ambassadorship. Last month, the president nominated Cindy McCain, the widow of Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. John McCain, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme.
Cindy McCain, 67, had also endorsed Biden over Trump, who frequently criticized John McCain before and after his death in 2018 at age 81.
Biden taps former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake to be US ambassador to Turkey amid growing tensions with Erdoğan
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.
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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. U.S. 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.
Biden nominates Jeff Flake, GOP critic of Trump, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Turkey
“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,” Flake said in a statement. “That is my belief as well, and my commitment.”