U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Jeff Flake, a former anti-Trump Republican Senator and Christian missionary, as ambassador to Turkey on Tuesday.
“This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries,” Flake said in a statement after his nomination, Reuters reported.
Ties between the United States and Turkey have deteriorated after Ankara acquired S-400 air defence missiles from Russia in 2019, which resulted in its exclusion from the F-35 stealth fighter jet programme and sanctions against its defence procurement agency. The two countries’ policies also differ over Syria – where the United States backs Kurdish militants that Turkey considers terrorists – Libya and the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden held their first face-to-face meeting in June at a NATO summit in Brussels in an effort to repair ties.
“Given the strategic importance of the United States’ relationship with our long-time NATO ally, the Republic of Turkey, I am honoured and humbled by the trust President Biden has placed in me with this ambassadorial nomination,” Flake said, according to Reuters.
Ankara and Washington are currently discussing Turkey’s proposal to run and secure Kabul international airport in Afghanistan after NATO forces complete their withdrawal from the country.
Flake, who served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Africa during the 1980s, held a seat in the U.S. Senate between 2013 and 2019 and in the U.S. House of Representatives between 2001 and 2013 as a member of the Republican Party from Arizona.
Flake is known as a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, calling on him to withdraw from the presidential race. Flake denounced the “complicity” of his own political party in “an alarming and dangerous state of affairs under Trump” in a speech he delivered to the U.S. Senate in 2017.
In August 2020, Flake officially endorsed Joe Biden for president.