Biden taps former Republican senator Jeff Flake for Turkey ambassador

Flake was one of more than two dozen former Republican members of Congress to announce their support for US president

Jeff Flake was one of a handful of Republicans who endorsed Joe Biden for president in 2020. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated former senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who endorsed his 2020 run for the White House, to serve as US ambassador to Turkey.

Mr Flake, who represented Arizona, served in the Senate from 2013 to 2019 and in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013.

He retired from the Senate at the end of his term in 2019, saying he was out of step with the Republican Party in the era of former president Donald Trump. He later wrote a book, Conscience of a Conservative, which was largely a critique of Mr Trump.

“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,” Mr Flake said in a statement. “That is my belief as well and my commitment.”

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Former representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania and Jim Leach of Iowa, as well as John Warner, a senator from Virginia who died in May, are among the former Republican members of Congress who endorsed Mr Biden last year.

If confirmed, Mr Flake will head to Ankara at a difficult moment in the US-Turkey relationship.

The list of disagreements is unusually long for the two Nato allies, with US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria as well as Turkey’s purchase of a Russian weapons system topping the list. And in April, Mr Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians to be “genocide”.

Previous US presidents had avoided using the term out of concern it would complicate ties with Turkey, which is fiercely proud of its Ottoman history and insists that those killed in the early 20th century were victims of civil war and unrest.

Biden administration and Turkish government officials are also currently in talks about Turkey providing security at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after the US completes its pullout from Afghanistan this summer.

Mr Flake would succeed David Satterfield, a well-respected career foreign service officer who has served as the US ambassador to Turkey for more than two years.

Updated: July 13, 2021, 10:06 PM