Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris on Friday announced two key staff appointments, both of whom have ties with Turkey and/or Azerbaijan.
Harris announced the appointment of Nancy McEldowney as her national security advisor and Rohini Kosoglu as her domestic policy advisor.
A career U.S. Foreign Service official, McEldowney’s resume includes stints as U.S. Chargé d’Affaires and deputy chief of mission in Turkey (2005-2008) and Azerbaijan (2001-2004). Last month, McEldowney joined President Elect Joe Biden’s presidential transition team to facilitate efforts related to the Department of State.
It was during McEldowney’s tenure in Ankara when the Turkish-Armenia protocol process started that was preceded by President George W. Bush’s infamous Rose Garden press briefing where he condemned the Armenian Genocide resolution being discussed in Congress. She presumably played a more direct role in advancing the protocols in her position as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs from 2009 to 2011.
President Elect Joe Biden has gone on record to express his frustrations with the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him [Erdogan] now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” Biden told The New York Times in December, 2019.
“He [Erdogan] has to pay a price,” Biden said at the time, adding that Washington should embolden Turkish opposition leaders “to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”
She was in Baku when the U.S. waived the Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, that preconditioned U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan with the end of Armenia’s blockade by Ankara and Baku.
In his fourth announcement in October, while fighting still raged in Karabakh due to Azerbaijan’s aggressive attacks, which were supported by Turkey and Ankara-backed mercenaries from Syria, Biden called on the administration to enforce Section 907 bans on aid to Azerbaijan and the flow of military equipment into Azerbaijan.
“While he brags about his deal-making skills at campaign rallies, Trump has yet to get involved personally to stop this war. The administration must fully implement and not waive requirements under section 907 of the Freedom Support Act to stop the flow of military equipment to Azerbaijan, and call on Turkey and Russia to stop fueling the conflict with the supply of weapons and, in the case of Turkey, mercenaries,” Biden said at the time.
The Sri Lankan-American Kosoglu, who is Harris’ pick for domestic policy advisor, is the wife of Turkish-American software engineer Ozkan Sedat Kosoglu, who hails from Turkey’s northwestern province of Kırklareli.
The announcement of her appointment was hailed by Turkish media, which welcomed the “Bride of Kirklareli” being named to such a high-ranking post.
Harris described Kosoglu as “not only an expert on some of the most important issues facing the American people but also one of my closest and most trusted aides from the Senate and presidential campaign.”
Prior to her appointment on Friday, Kosoglu served as senior advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign, before which she was Harris’ chief of staff in the Senate directing her legislative strategy and leadership on key committees, including the Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, as well as Budget Committees.