November 30, 2021

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Biden picks Republican ex-Sen. Jeff Flake as U.S. ambassador to Turkey – CNBC

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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.

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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.

“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.

“This is a pivotal post at an important time for both of our countries,” the former senator wrote.

CNBC Politics

Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

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.

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