WASHINGTON, DC – Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, today announced that his panel will hold a vote next Tuesday, August 3rd, on the confirmation of Matthew Bryza, President Obama’s controversial nominee to serve U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, despite the nominee’s evasive and incomplete answers to a series of written questions submitted to him by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and key members of this influential panel, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Mr. Bryza’s evasive, unresponsive, and incomplete written answers to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even more than his spoken testimony before this panel, confirm our reservations about his troubling track record, and clearly confirm that he is not the right person to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “American diplomacy in the region would be well served by a fresh start, with a new ambassador who doesn’t have deep ties into Azerbaijan’s corrupt government, a history of turning a blind-eye to Baku’s aggression, or serious conflict of interest issues.”
“We want to thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and offer our sincere appreciation to Senators Boxer and Menendez and all the those who have worked hard to ensure that we send an ambassador to Baku who can effectively represent U.S. interests, persuasively advance American values, and – crucially, for the cause of peace – constrain an increasingly belligerent Aliyev regime from acting on its threats of renewed war,” added Hamparian.
Bryza’s July 22nd confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee raised more questions than answered on a range of issues, prompting Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Chairman Kerry to submit written questions to the nominee and, significantly, prompted a detailed letter of inquiry to the State Department directly from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
During Bryza’s July 22nd committee appearance, he confirmed, for the first time by an Administration official, the widely reported news that Azerbaijan had, in fact, initiated the June 18, 2010 incident on the Nagorno Karabagh frontier that led to the death of four Nagorno Karabagh and one Azerbaijani soldier. In response to a question from Senator Boxer, he acknowledged Azerbaijan sparked the conflict, but then sought to deflect responsibility onto Nagorno Karabagh forces, which he mistakenly described as “Armenia[n],” stating: “There was an Azerbaijani movement across the line of contact, Armenia responded, resulting in deaths.” In response to Senator Boxer’s follow-up written question asking “Why hasn’t the U.S. government been more forceful in its condemnation of Azerbaijan,” Bryza retreated from his cautious spoken remarks, saying only that: “the full details of what occurred on June 18 are not known.”
In response to a separate written question by Senator Boxer as to whether Azerbaijan’s June 18th attack against Nagorno Karabagh represented a violation of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which restricts U.S. aid to Azerbaijan unless it takes demonstrable steps to cease offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, Bryza repeated: “The full details of what occurred on June 18 are not known,” and then went on to defend the Administration’s waiver of Section 907 and to generally praise Azerbaijan as a “important security partner” to the United States.
Azerbaijan’s Desecration of the Djulfa Cemetery:
In response to written inquiries about Bryza’s prolonged silence in the wake of Azerbaijan’s December 2005 demolition of the Armenian cemetery in Djulfa, Bryza argued that he had made private comments on this matter to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov, but could not point to any public remarks until March of the following year, when he was confronted with questions on this subject by journalists at a Yerevan press conference. In the nearly three month period of Bryza’s silence on Djulfa, this issue was covered in the international media and publicly condemned by U.S. Members of Congress, international NGOs, and the full European Parliament.
Conflict of Interest:
In response to concerns by Sen. Menendez regarding conflict of interest issues that arose regarding Bryza’s wife, Zeyno Baran, and her professional work at the Hudson Institute advocating on U.S. policy toward Azerbaijan and the Caspian region, Bryza argued that, since January 2009, Baran had “shifted the focus of her work” from the South Caucasus to “Islam, democracy and extremism in Europe and the United States.” (A Google search reveals numerous instances of public commentary by Baran regarding the South Caucasus since 2009.)
The source of the funding for Baran’s Center for Eurasia Policy program at the Hudson Institute remains unclear. The Hudson Institute has, as of today, refused to respond to a June 3, 2010 written request from the ANCA that it publicly share its sources of funding from Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Fast-tracking of Nomination
An editorial published today in The Armenian Weekly voiced the Armenian American community’s frustration with the Senator Kerry’s fast-tracking of the Bryza nomination. “All citizens and Senators deserve a chance to meaningfully participate in the important Constitutional process of ambassadorial confirmations, especially when vital life-and-death issues are at stake, as they are in Nagorno Karabagh,” noted the Weekly. “As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Senator representing America’s oldest and one of its largest Armenian American communities, John Kerry should put the brakes on the Bryza nomination.”
Click here to read the full text of The Armenian Weekly editorial.
Armenian Americans have been contacting their Senators to opposed the Bryza nomination through an ANCA action alert posted here.
Links to Sen. Reid’s letter, and Responses to Questions submitted by Senators Boxer and Menendez are posted below.