In another move that further reinforces that Matthew Bryza had a conflict of interest, Turkey’s Turcas Petrol Company announced that it has appointed the former US Ambassador to Baku on its board of directors. Turcas Petrol is an oil company affiliated with Azerbaijan’s state oil company, SOCAR.
Even before becoming ambassador, as a result of President Obama’s recess appointment, which went counter to serious objection by Senate leaders and his own constituents, the alarm was raised about Bryza’s entrenched interests in Azerbaijan.
“It’s regrettable that Mr. Bryza was allowed, for so long, to use his senior U.S. government postings as a platform to advance his agenda as an apologist for Ankara and Baku,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.
“Mr. Bryza – with his own words, actions, and choice of employment – confirmed the fears of his critics, vindicated those who opposed his nomination, and, in my view, embarrassed many in the foreign policy community whose knee-jerk reaction was to stand in his defense, but who today, upon reflection, respect and likely even share the very legitimate reasons for the ANCA’s opposition to his confirmation.”
Bryza’s new position has also angered Azerbaijan’s opposition.
“We are absolutely incensed by Matthew Bryza’s appointment,” Murad Gassanly, an Azeri opposition activist based in London told The Huffington Post late last week. The opposition contends that the US and the West are only interested in Azerbaijan’s oil and their often soft admonition of Azerbaijan on its abysmal human right record is merely a show.
“This shows that U.S.-Azerbaijan relations can only be described as oil-soaked,” Gassanly told The Huffington Post. “Forget human rights and democracy.”
During her visit to Baku last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a member of the opposition. Yet, in a press conference summing up her visit, she praised Azerbaijan as a crucial energy partner and emphasized the important role Azerbaijan’s energy plays in US strategic interests.
Gassanly told The Huffington Post that Clinton’s meeting with the opposition was nothing but a stunt “to deflect attention from the fact that [Clinton] refused to meet [more senior] opposition leaders and activists.”