WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump intends to nominate David Satterfield, a veteran diplomat with deep experience in the Middle East, to be U.S. ambassador to Turkey, the White House said on Friday.
Satterfield has been the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs since 2017. He has previously served as the deputy U.S. chief of mission in Iraq, ambassador to Lebanon, director for Near Eastern affairs on the National Security Council, as well as in Syria, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, a Muslim-majority NATO ally, borders Syria, Iraq and Iran and is a major player in the region.
The conflict in Syria following Trump’s announcement of a U.S. pullout, the fallout from the murder of a Saudi journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkey’s demand for the extradition of a Muslim cleric from the United States are among the main issues in the two countries’ relations.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Trump’s decision in December to withdraw American troops from Syria. Washington has backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters while Turkey brands the group a terrorist organization.
Erdogan said in November Turkey would not abide by renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping industries because they were aimed at “unbalancing the world.”
Trump and Erdogan have also taken different tacks in their response to the Oct. 2 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite a CIA assessment it was likely the prince had ordered the killing. Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder.
Trump said in November that he was not considering extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup.
Reporting by Mohammad Zargham