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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Donald Trump to nominate David Satterfield as ambassador to Turkey

The 64-year-old diplomat will face a number of hurdles in the fractious relationship between Washington and Ankara

US diplomat David Satterfield, left, is celebrated for his mediating skills. Reuters
US diplomat David Satterfield, left, is celebrated for his mediating skills. Reuters

Veteran diplomat David Satterfield will be nominated as the next US ambassador to Turkey, the White House announced, as the two countries drift farther apart after a series of diplomatic spats.

Celebrated for his mediating skills, Mr Satterfield, 64, is stepping in at a time of growing unease between the Nato allies.

The diplomat is likely to face several hurdles. The fallout from the murder of a Saudi journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey’s demand for the extradition of a Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from the US and Ankara’s reluctance to abide by renewed sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping industries are among the main issues affecting the two countries’ relations.

The fractious relationship has been exacerbated by unyielding leaders in both countries.

An experienced Middle East expert, Mr Satterfield has been the acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs since 2017. He served as the deputy US 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.

He seems a perfect fit for Turkey – a Muslim-majority country that borders Syria, Iraq and Iran and is a major player in the region.

Mr Satterfield is likely to encounter further trouble across Turkey’s southern border, in northern Syria, where Turkish forces welcomed President Donald Trump’s decision in December to withdraw American troops from Syria. Washington has backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters while Turkey insists the group is a terrorist organisation.

Last week, the US State Department updated its travel advisory for Turkey amid stalled US-Turkey talks on Syria, growing differences over the Venezuela crisis and the expected Turkish S-400 deal with Russia.

In June, Mr Satterfield took on the mammoth task of shuttling between Israel and Lebanon in a back-channel mediation of a maritime dispute over oil and gas exploration.

He is the recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the United States Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award. He earned a BA from the University of Maryland speaks Arabic, French and Italian.

Updated: February 17, 2019 08:50 PM

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