ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)—Newly appointed US ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone arrived in Ankara Thursday amid protests six months after his predecessor left Turkey. Ricciardone is expected to present his credential to President Abdulla Gül within days and prepare the environment for Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Turkish capital on February 7.
“We are eager to meet new friends and to make new memories in Turkey,” Ricciardone told reporters at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport in his first press appearance, where he spoke in Turkish. Ricciardone has already served in Turkey twice and is known for his expertise on Middle East politics.
“My wife and I, we love Turkey very much. Our first daughter was born in Turkey,” he recalled, adding that the entire family has many good friends and memories in Turkey.
“Turkey is a very important country in this region and for the United States. It is becoming more important, influential and effective every passing day. My mission, as outlined by President Obama, is to move forward the alliance between the two countries and friendship between the two nations,” he said.
Ricciardone was greeted in Ankara by a group of 40 Turkish demonstrators protesting the United States. “We will ask those who put Turkish soldiers’ heads in hoods to pay,” they chanted, referencing an incident in the early days of the Iraq War when U.S. forces detained several Turkish Special Forces in northern Iraq. The group also said they would not allow Turkey to join the U.S.-backed missile shield project, before being stopped by security officers.
The U.S. has not been represented at the ambassadorial level in Ankara since July, when Ricciardone’s predecessor James Jeffrey was appointed to Baghdad. Ricciardone’s appointment was finalized in early January when U.S. President Barack Obama used his right of recess appointment in a move to bypass the Congress.
A career diplomat, Ricciardone has served since 2009 as deputy ambassador and charge’ d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He also served as ambassador to Egypt until 2008 and ambassador to the Philippines and concurrently to Palau.
He began his career in Ankara and Adana. He served twice again in Turkey: as political advisor to the U.S. and Turkish commanders of Operation Provide Comfort at Incirlik Air Force Base, and as deputy chief of mission and charge’ d’affaires. He led the transition to and organization of the US Embassy in Baghdad in 2004, and the Department of State’s task force in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He served as former Secretary Madeleine Albright’s special representative for the transition of Iraq from 1999-2001. Ambassador Ricciardone was born in Boston in 1952 and graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1973.