On Thursday, Matthew Bryza will face a Senate panel to begin the confirmation process for his nomination as US Ambassador to Azerbaijan. Will senators question Bryza for his role in a 1997 car accident, which left a woman in a coma? Or, will Bryza avoid responsibility?
The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other press sources at the time reported that on August 18, 1997, Bryza hit a woman, who was taken to the hospital with serious head injuries. The US response to this incident was to recall Bryza back to the States and express “regret” for the victim.
James Rubin, the official spokesman for the State Department at the time said that the decision to recall Bryza from Moscow was made in connection with the fact that the diplomat “is no longer able to work efficiently in Moscow because of this incident.”
At the time of the incident, none other than Richard Hoagland, a press spokesman for the US Embassy in Moscow at the time had this to say about Bryza: “I also want to say something about Matt Bryza who comes across in the press reports about this incident as all but a monster. Matt was one of the brightest, most polite, most promising young diplomats at the American Embassy in Moscow. While we have to have compassion for the woman who was injured in this accident, I think it’s important we have compassion for Matt, too, who has suffered the double trauma of having been involved in a traffic accident and of having had his diplomatic career in Moscow abruptly yanked out from under him.”
Hoagland was President George W. Bush’s nominee for the US ambassadorial post in Armenia. His nomination was blocked by Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, due to Hoagland’s continued insistence to deny the Armenian Genocide. Bush subsequently pulled Hoagland’s nomination.
Bryza was then appointed to be the US co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group and developed close ties with Azeri elite in Baku. News of a high-ranking Azeri minister allegedly paying for Bryza’s wedding to Turkish scholar Zeyno Baran was reported by the Azeri press, after which the editor and reporter of the newspaper were jailed and attacked.
The US Senate should be vigilant about these incidents and when considering Bryza’s nomination should objectively weigh whether he is the right person to represent US interests in Azerbaijan.