The US State Department on Thursday accepted Turkey’s request that the country be called “Türkiye” henceforth. Henceforth, in official documents about Turkey, Washington will refer to ‘Türkiye’ and will no longer use ‘Turkey’.
Ankara has long been angered by cartoons and other references associating the country with turkeys — ‘turkey’ being the English word for turkey.
The US State Department generally uses English spellings for country names: for example ‘Spain’ and ‘España’, not ‘Germany’, ‘Germany’.
Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formalized the spelling change request in a request to the international community. “Türkiye” is a more accurate representation of how the country’s name is pronounced in Turkey, Erdoğan argued. In recent times, Erdogan has increasingly wholesaled on nationalist and populist policies, which critics say undermine democratic values.
The modified spelling was already adopted last year by the United Nations and NATO, of which Turkey is a member. America took longer to change the spelling. A US State Department spokeswoman indicated that the expert panel had ruled that officials and administrations could still use the “conventional spelling” of the country’s name if it “contributed to wider public understanding”.
Turkey is an important but difficult ally for the Americans. Arms deals with Russia and violent repression of minorities and dissidents may hope for some recognition in Washington, but at the same time the US needs Turkey’s help in Ukraine. In addition, Sweden and Finland are still awaiting Turkey’s approval to join NATO.