WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider President Obama’s nomination of Richard Morningstar to serve as Ambassador to Azerbaijan, during a hearing on Wednesday, June 13th at 2:45pm that will be webcast live on the panel’s website, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Ambassador Morningstar’s confirmation hearing is an opportunity for the Senate to shed light on the question that’s really at the heart of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations: ‘Is the Administration ready to forcefully challenge Baku’s threats and acts of aggression, or will it simply continue cheerleading for Ilham Aliyev’s military escalation and march toward war?’” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward to members of the Committee giving this important nomination the attention and scrutiny it clearly deserves.”
The nomination hearing comes just a week after a marked escalation in Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh which led to 8 deaths. The cross-border fighting occurred during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the region, prompting Clinton to once again to urge the end of violence, but stopping short of properly condemning Azerbaijani aggression.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Chairwoman of the panel’s subcommittee dealing with European affairs, is scheduled to lead the hearing, which affords members the opportunity to exercise their advise and consent responsibilities by reviewing candidates for diplomatic posts, conducting oversight of executive branch activities, and exploring the various policy issues related to their future responsibilities.
Richard L. Morningstar currently serves as the U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy. His experience in the Caucasus includes his appointment as Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy, where he was responsible for assuring maximum coordination within the Executive Branch and with other governments and international organizations to promote United States policies on Caspian Basin energy development and transportation. From April 1995 to July 1998, he served as Ambassador and Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance for the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union where he oversaw all U.S. bilateral assistance and trade investment activities in the NIS. His complete biography is available on the State Department website at: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/126026.htm
Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Cashes in on Aliyev Ties
Ambassador Morningstar’s nomination follows the ill-fated Senate consideration of Matthew Bryza for the same post in 2009. Bryza was never confirmed by the Senate, eventually serving a one-year term as Ambassador through a recess appointment by President Obama amid Senate and Armenian American concerns of both bias and conflict of interest related to his close ties to Azerbaijan’s corrupt Aliyev regime. Those concerns have been confirmed by Bryza, himself, in interviews given following his departure from the U.S. Foreign service and reinforced by his recent decision to join the Board of Turcas Petrol company, which is partly controlled by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).
“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 own agenda regarding Ankara and Baku,” explained Hamparian. “Mr. Bryza – with his own words, actions, and choice of employment – has confirmed the fears of his critics, vindicated those who opposed his nomination, and 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.”