Former Interior Secretary who faced Ankara sanctions to head U.S. delegation to Turkey

Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose assets were temporarily frozen by Ankara last year, is set to lead an American business and lobbying delegation on a visit to Turkey this month, Politico reported on Monday. 

“Turkey remains an important NATO member and I am honored to help facilitate greater U.S.-Turkey business ties in an unofficial capacity,” Zinke wrote to Politico Influence, which covers U.S. lobbying. “I strongly believe increasing trade between the U.S. and Turkey will result in a more prosperous and stable region.” 

Zinke is known for strong ties to Turkey. The then-Interior Secretary took an unscheduled trip to Istanbul with his wife in August 2018, soon after being sanctioned by Turkey in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s sanctioning of two Turkish ministers in connection to Ankara’s detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey lifted the sanctions on Zinke three months later. 

After stepping down from his Cabinet post in January, Zinke joined D.C.-based lobbying firm Turnberry Solutions, which was started by former Trump aides. A spokesperson for lobbying firm BGR Group confirmed that it would take part in the Zinke-led trip to Turkey, according to Politico.  

“Companies investing in energy, textile technologies, cyber and physical security technologies will be matched with their Turkish peers to develop contractual agreements supporting investment, joint ventures and sectoral growth within the scope of the U.S.-Turkey Business Roundtable CEOs meeting to be held in Istanbul on July 23-24,” Uğur Terzioğlu, head of the American Turkish Business Development Council, told Turkey’s Dünya newspaper. 

U.S. officials have repeatedly threatened to sanction Turkey for its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, the first of which is expected to arrive in Turkey this week.