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Ilhan Tanir
Mar 12 2019

Amb Reeker to become acting assistant secretary of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

Ambassador Philip Reeker will become the principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs next week, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino announced.

Reeker will be replacing former assistant secretary A. Wess Mitchell who resigned from his position in early 2019.

''Ambassador Reeker is a career Foreign Service officer who’s currently the civilian deputy commander at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.'' Palladino said in his announcement from the State Department podium last week. 

Palladino added that Reeker had previously ''served as the consul general in Milan; as the deputy assistant secretary for the Balkans, Central Europe, as well as Holocaust issues; as the United States ambassador.''

Reeker will be responsible overseeing Turkey, which falls under the Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs (EUR ). The EUR is charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy in Europe and Eurasia, includes Europe, as well as Turkey, Cyprus and Caucasus Region. 

''Reeker is an accomplished and talented career foreign service officer. I interacted a good bit with him in Iraq ten years ago. Consummate professional with good judgement. His recent service as Deputy Commander u s forces Europe (EUCOM) ensures that he is fully aware of the ongoing contentious issues (for example S400s) affecting US-Turkey-NATO relations,'' former Counsellor for Political-Military Affairs in Ankara, Turkey between 2011-2014) and Ahval contributor Edward Stafford said.

The Turkish government has spent almost a billion dollars on the procurement of F-35 fighter jets. Some analysts and mostly pro-Turkish government pundits back in Turkey have argued that due to the long partnership of Turkey in F-35 project, the U.S. government has no other option but to deliver the jets to Turkey. 

This expectation has changed dramatically in recent weeks. First, the congressional spending bill, which was signed by the U.S. President Trump, effectively banned F-35s going to Turkey until November of 2019. Later, Pentagon's acting spokesperson Charles Summers said if the Turkish government purchases the Russian defense system S-400s, F-35s and American Patriots would not go to Turkey and all other defense relations with the Ankara government would face 'grave consequences.' Since then, the Turkish government has been continuing to object the U.S. threats. Turkey will have its local elections at the end of March and it is not expected that the Erdogan government would change its position on these issues till then.

Ambassador Reeker is appointed as principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for the time being. It is not clear yet if he will be nominated for a permanent position. Washington sources familiar with the process say Reeker can be acting assistant secretary for a limited number of months and not years.