“Merhabalar [Hello in Turkish],” Ricciardone said upon his arrival at the Ankara International Esenboğa Airport. “Turkey is a very important country both for its region and for the US. Each passing day, it is becoming a more important, heavyweight and influential country,” Ricciardone was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency as he continued his remarks in English. “That’s why, as President [Barack] Obama said, my duty is advancing the alliance between the two countries and the friendship between peoples,” he added, while describing Turkey as “a special and cute country” for himself and his family.
Ricciardone’s Foreign Service assignments include two tours in Turkey, most recently (1995-1999) as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires.
He also served in two multinational military deployments as chief of the Civilian Observer Unit of the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, and as political advisor to the US and Turkish commanding generals of Operation Provide Comfort, based in Turkey and operating in Iraq. Ricciardone speaks Italian, Turkish, Arabic and French.
Ricciardone said he had started his Foreign Service career with his first post in Turkey 32 years ago. “That’s to say, we have very beautiful memories for our entire family and we have sincere friends,” he said, as he recalled that his elder daughter was born in Turkey. “We are looking forward to seeing old friends and having new friends,” he added, while using a Turkish idiom which means that old friends eventually reunite with each other. The US has had no ambassador in Ankara since July. Obama used his power in late December to make a recess appointment to the post, bypassing the Senate.