US Ambassador Ricciardone to keep working on Turkey after retirement

US Ambassador Ricciardone to keep working on Turkey after retirement

US Ambassador Ricciardone to keep working on Turkey after retirement

Francis Ricciardone was appointed as US ambassador to Ankara in 2011 and speaks fluent Turkish. DAILY NEWS Photo

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone will keep working on Turkey and the Middle East after he leaves his post following Turkey's presidential elections scheduled for August, assuming the title of vice president of the Atlantic Council and becoming director of its Rafik Hariri Center in late September.

Ricciardone has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from circles close to the Turkish government since the Dec. 17, 2013, graft probe.

Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, said in a statement that the leadership experience of Ricciardone would benefit the institution during one of the most critical periods in Middle East history.

In a written statement sent to Hürriyet, Ricciardone said: “I’m looking forward to every day of my remaining months in Turkey, and then to staying in close touch with my Turkish and other friends across the region from my new capacity starting this autumn.”

“It’s much too early to start my farewells – we’ll leave that till this summer. Until the last day in my current official position several months from now, I'm staying totally focused on the very intense work still at hand here,” he added.

Ricciardone, who will start his new job in late September, also said in a statement released by the institution that he would return to Turkey in November with his new title during the sixth annual Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul.

'Normal rotation of ambassadors'

The ambassador extended his stay in Turkey because he values relations with Turkey, a NATO ally and long-time partner, a U.S. State Department official told Hürriyet.

“Ambassador Ricciardone has demonstrated extraordinary professionalism and deep affection for the people of Turkey in representing the United States in Ankara. His departure is part of the normal rotation of ambassadors and conforms with State Department procedures,” the official said.

"In fact, Ambassador Ricciardone had agreed to remain in his post beyond the normal departure time because of the value that the United States government places on its relationship with Turkey, a vital NATO ally and partner of long standing," the official added.

Diplomatic sources said a potential new ambassador to Ankara was John Bass, currently the executive assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry and former ambassador to Tbilisi. A senior State Department official also confirmed that “Bass could be nominated to be the next ambassador to Turkey.”

Bass would need to obtain U.S. Senate approval before being approved to the post.