U.S. Senate confirms Satterfield as new U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed career diplomat David Satterfield to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey, a post that has been vacant since October 2017. 

Satterfield, a member of the Foreign Service and the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs since 2017, was nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump in February. 

“We have exciting news! Last night, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ambassador David Satterfield to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. We look forward to welcoming him in the near future,” the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said in on Twitter.

Satterfield’s confirmation comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two NATO allies due to Turkey’s decision to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia. The Pentagon has set July 31 as deadline to eject Turkey from the programme to build F-35 fighter jets if Ankara goes ahead with plans to receive the first delivery of S-400 batteries in mid-July.

The diplomat will likely face a set of other problems between Washington and Ankara, including Turkey’s plans to establish a 20 to 25 km deep safe zone along the full length of the Syrian border to wipe out the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which the Turkish administration sees as a terrorist organisation and the extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

John Bass was the last serving American ambassador to Ankara from 2014 to 2017. Bass left Turkey and assumed the office of the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan amid a visa spat between two countries. The United States temporarily suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey, after the arrest of a Turkish employee working at a division of the U.S. embassy over alleged ties to Gülen movement, which Turkey blames for orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. 

Following the decision, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he did not accept Bass’ farewell visit and did not see him as representative of the United States in Turkey.