The Washington D.C., office of public affairs and strategy firm Mercury has been tapped by the Turkish Institute for Progress for foreign relations support.
International relations organization Turkish Institute for Progress was formed as a means of establishing a forum for dialogue between Turkey and the international community. The non-profit organization is headquartered in New York.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unveiled an economic plan this week to bolster Turkey's ailing tourism industry, which has been hurt recently due to a spate of terrorist attacks and escalating tensions with Russia.
A January suicide bombing in Istanbul's popular tourist district Sultanahmet Square killed 13, all foreigners. ISIS was blamed for that attack. A second bombing, this one from a car targeting military personnel, killed nearly 30 people in the Turkish capital of Ankara. Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks later claimed responsibility for that incident.
Turkey's relations with Russia have also soured surrounding both countries' ongoing role in Syria's civil war, which was the sight of a provisional February cease-fire brokered between Russia and the U.S.
Russia has thrown its support behind the Kurdish forces loyal to Syria's autocratic ruler Bashar Assad, forces also supported by the U.S. for aiding in its fight against ISIS. Turkey, which opposes the Syrian government, has supported rebels intending to overthrow Assad, and along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has backed umbrella rebel groups such as The Army of Conquest, which allegedly bears ties to al-Qaeda.
Turkey, which in November shot down a Russian warplane it accused of entering its airspace — representing the first downing of a Russian aircraft by a NATO power since the Korean War — has since accused Russia and Syria of attempting to form a "terror belt" along its Syrian border. Davutoglu told the press this week that it supports the cease-fire but would continue shelling Kurdish fighters in Syria if attacked. Assad, meanwhile, said in February that “other countries, especially Turkey" should cease aiding rebels as a provision for the ceasefire. NATO in February warned Turkey that it can't guarantee support should tension with Russia escalate into an armed conflict.
Mercury will now represent TIP for the purpose of improving U.S. and Turkish relations. A three-member Mercury team will handle the account, which includes senior VP Mark Braden, former campaign manager for Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN) and Richard Burr (R-NC); senior VP Mike McSherry, former government affairs director for the Republican National Committee and director of VA Governor Jim Gilmore’s Federal Affairs liaison office; and director Jennifer Kaufmann, former counsel and rules associate for Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL).