The US will start referring to the country Turkey by its preferred variation, Türkiye, the US State Department said on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in January of last year that he would change the name of Turkey to Türkiye. Washington’s decision to refer to the country as Türkiye follows the earlier decision by the United Nations (UN) to start using the new spelling in all official documents and public statements.
The State Department said that the decision was made following a request by the Turkish embassy to refer to the country as “the Republic of Türkiye” or “Türkiye,” as it is simply called in official parlance. The move precedes a highly anticipated visit by the Turkish foreign minister to Washington at the end of this month.
Turkey or Türkiye?
Erdogan pushed through the official name change back in January 2022. “The word ‘Türkiye’ represents and expresses the culture, civilization and values of the Turkish nation in the best way,” read a statement by the Turkish President.
“’Türkiye’ is the name used for the country in Turkish, and the country now wants to carry that name over to international recognition,” Erdogan concluded.
Ankara made a formal request to the international community to respect its preferred spelling in June of last year. The UN, NATO, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) quickly acknowledged the request, but it has taken the US longer to do so.
Erdogan’s rationale for the name change is a diplomatic, social, and business-minded one. “Türkiye is accepted as an umbrella brand for our country in national and international venues,” Erdogan maintained, adding that ‘Türkiye’ is truly representative of the Turkish people.
Some US federal agencies have already switched to the new spelling. For instance, the Treasury Department refers to the country as Türkiye. This led to a discrepancy in government paperwork, wherein some departments referred to the country with the old spelling and some with the new.
The spelling issue is a relatively minor matter in the grand scheme of US-Turkey relations. With Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu set to arrive in Washington by the end of January, several important topics will be on the agenda.
Among them, the US government will be keen to pressure Çavuşoğlu about Turkey’s position on the war in Ukraine. Although Turkey is a NATO member, Ankara has maintained economic ties with Russia, and Erdogan corresponds regularly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“For Turkey, cooperation with Russia and Ukraine (and the West) has never been a question of either/or,” said Yevgeniya Gaber, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Ankara will try to maintain its relations with all sides, but on different levels.”
Çavuşoğlu will also likely discuss with US officials Turkey’s opposition to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. Turkey removed its objections to the alliance’s enlargement in June, but US officials will likely want to iron out any lingering areas of disagreement between the NATO allies of which many remain.
Growing tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey may also make it onto the agenda. A flashpoint between the two NATO members in the Eastern Mediterranean would severely undermine the alliance and cause a security headache for Washington at a time when its attention is largely directed toward Ukraine.
Some US officials have been highly critical of Erdogan’s foreign policy. US Senator Bob Menendez called Turkey “the most persistent and proximate threat in the Eastern Mediterranean” just last summer.
“Despite its status as a NATO ally, Turkey challenges Greek sovereignty with provocative overflights in the Aegean Sea,” the senator also said. “Violating airspace with fighter jets is simply unacceptable behavior from any country, and is definitely unacceptable behavior from a NATO country.”
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