BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
At a press conference on Thursday in Baku, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza said that “”if a vote on my candidacy is not held, I will have to return to Washington by the start of the Senate’s new session,” which he claimed WILL begin on January 3.
Is this the end of the road for Ambassador Bryza? After all it is politics and we can’t count anything out. Case in point: President Obama’s brazen recess appointment of Matt Bryza last year, and subsequent re-nomination, despite heavy opposition by senators who questioned Bryza’s flawed record as a State Department operative—apparatchik—in the region.
However, Bryza’s actions of late demonstrate that he is uneasy and does not want to resign to the reality that the Senate might not approve his candidacy, thus he has taken some dubious, if not shameless, actions in the past week.
Last week, the Azeri APA news agency quoted Bryza as saying that “If I were an Armenian, I would support my candidacy [to the post].” He also claimed that he has even endured criticism from his Azeri friends during his tenure in the Caucasus.
Such uncharacteristically undiplomatic comments paint a picture of an aloof individual who purports to not understand the reason for such vocal opposition toward his nomination.
“I was always just during all these negotiations and was even subject to serious criticism by Azerbaijani friends. I do not know why it happens, I know that it is not Armenia but a small group of people,” the APA news agency quoted Bryza as saying. The news agency said Bryza “found it difficult to comment on the reason the Armenian lobby in the United States speaks against his candidacy.”
“People in America find it difficult to understand what the matter is and they even criticize the absence of voting. I hope to continue activity as the ambassador within the next two years,”
“We have been on record for well over a year now saying that it was a mistake for President Obama to nominate Matt Bryza as Ambassador to Azerbaijan, an error that, sadly, the President compounded by circumventing the Senate and sending Ambassador Bryza to Baku through a one-year recess appointment. Ambassador Bryza has – by virtue of his own record – always been the wrong person for this post,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian on Thursday.
“What is now clear is that U.S.-Azerbaijani diplomacy, having dug itself into a hole over the Bryza controversy, needs a fresh start, led by a new ambassador in Baku—without either bias or baggage—who can effectively advance U.S. interests, promote American values, and prevent renewed Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh,” added Hamparian.
Bryza has held meetings with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, in what the Azeri press is describing as “farewell” meetings.
2012 is sure to bring many new things, among them, we hope, will bring an end to Matthew Bryza’s destructive presence in the Caucasus. More important however, we hope the US will usher in the new year with a more balanced approach to its foreign policy and that includes nomination of ambassadors who do not have conflicts of interest.