Sassounian: Senate Should Scrutinize Bryza Before Confirming Him Ambassador

After a lengthy delay, Azerbaijan consented last week to the appointment of Matthew Bryza as U.S. ambassador to Baku, an unnamed American official told EurasiaNet.org. It is noteworthy that there has not been an American ambassador in Azerbaijan since last July. When John Evans was recalled as ambassador to Armenia in 2006 for using the term Armenian Genocide, the Bush Administration pressured the Senate to quickly confirm his successor, claiming that the United States urgently needed an ambassador in that country. Surprisingly, there has not been a similar sense of urgency in Washington, during the year-long absence of a U.S. ambassador from Azerbaijan. President Aliyev must have viewed this holdup as a snub to his country.

Until 2009, Matthew Bryza served as deputy assistant secretary of state and U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group negotiators on the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict. Interestingly, he was dubbed by colleagues as “Baby DAS” (Deputy Assistant Secretary) for his swift promotion, despite his youthful age and limited diplomatic experience.

The delay in his appointment to Baku could be attributed to Azerbaijan’s misgivings concerning Bryza and discontent with recent U.S. foreign policy initiatives. During the course of his upcoming Senate confirmation, Bryza should be questioned regarding his past actions and recent tensions between Azerbaijan and the United States.

Here are some questions that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should consider asking Bryza during his nomination process:

– Why did it take so long for Azerbaijan to consent to your appointment? What complaints did Azerbaijan have against you and against U.S. foreign policy in the region? What assurances were given by the United States to Azerbaijan to allay its concerns before consenting to your appointment?

– Despite your and the Minsk Group’s persistent efforts to resolve the Karabagh conflict, Armenia and Azerbaijan are still far from reaching a peace agreement. What do you think are the remaining obstacles to resolving this conflict? Given your expertise in this region, what steps would you take as U.S. ambassador to secure Azerbaijan’s consent to a peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict rather than resorting to war?

– Aliyev has been pressuring Turkey not to lift its blockade of Armenia. How would you dissuade Azerbaijan from undermining Armenia-Turkey relations?

– Given the absence of democratic norms in Azerbaijan, known for forged elections, lack of media freedom, and repressive measures against opposition parties and minorities, how would you persuade Azerbaijan’s leaders to establish rule of law?

– What messages did you convey to Georgia’s leadership prior to the Georgia-Russia war of 2008? Is there any truth to reports that you had advised the Georgians that the United States would intervene militarily in case of an attack by Russia?

– Do you believe you can carry out your diplomatic duties professionally and objectively, given your wife’s outspoken views on Armenian, Azeri and Turkish issues? (Bryza married Zeyno Baran, a Turkish-born foreign policy analyst at the Hudson Institute. Their wedding took place at the former home of the prominent Balian family of architects on an island near Istanbul. It was attended by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and high-ranking Turkish, Georgian, and American officials.)

– Did you have any role in the recall and premature retirement of Ambassador John Evans? Do you think that an ambassador should be fired simply for using the term Armenian Genocide? What are your own views on the Armenian Genocide? Do you think it is appropriate for President Obama to break his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide?

– In a letter to Secretary Clinton, the Armenian National Committee of America accused you of not being impartial on “Armenia-related matters,” harboring a “pro-Azerbaijani bias in the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process,” and advocating “U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide.” What assurances can you give the American people that you would fairly and objectively carry out your diplomatic duties in Azerbaijan as the official representative of the United States?

The members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should closely scrutinize Bryza’s nomination to ensure that, if confirmed, he represents U.S. interests in Baku, and not the other way around, since both he and his wife, Zeyno Baran, have had extensive ties with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. In her 2005 Senate testimony, Baran expressed her opposition to the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide, while her husband, Bryza, told a reporter that Turkey was his “second home.”

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

2 Comments

  1. Mr. Matthew  Bryza  with  his   biased   political  view,  ethnic  background  and  ani- Armenian  spouse   can  not    carry  out diplomatic   duties   neutrally    as   representative  of    United States   interests   in    South Caucasus. —————————-

    Following   is  my   letter   written  almost  2  years ago to former US     Secretary of    State    Candalisa   Rice  Regarding  defficiencies   of    Mr.  Matthew   Bryza 

    LETTER    WRITTEN    TO US      STATE      DEPT.      ON OCT. 15, 2008
    —————————————————————————————————
    US  State  Dept.                                                                                                                                  Dear Madam Secretary Candalisa Rice and Mr. Mathew Bryza. 1.5 million Armenian-American US taxpayers plus   6.5   million Armenian all over the world are very disappointed and angry for Mr. Mathew Bryza’s  strange and biased announcement regarding  Nagorno-Karabakh(Artsakh) conflict. He is acting very irresponsibly and making a tense situation even worse.
    We think he has no any historical knowledge about that region or people living there..
    Mr. Bryza you should know that more than a century Turks and later Azeris and Bolsheviks persecuted, oppressed and massacred Armenian people. There is centuries animosity  between Muslem  Turks, Azeris and Christian Armenians.Therefore it’s impossible that Karabakh(Artsakh) people will accept Azebaijani  rule once again. Since Karabakh/Artsakh is a life and death issue for all Armenians I assure you that there will be a blood bath in Karabakh which will spread all over region if Azerbaijani regain   Stalin created old borders.
    With all respect this young and inexperienced   diplomat   sometimes makes  such  unusual statements   only   to   flatter Turks  and  satisfy his  spouse. ….               But he is not realize that this kind announcements can create more problems in that region and will harm peace process intensifying an already volatile situation. At least he doesn’t even consider US Ambassador’s   recent statement for  Karabakh’s   right  for   “self determination”
    Everyone (ncluding Mr.Bryza) should know and undersatand that N.Karabakh is our ancestral and bibilical land and it belong to their rightful historical owners. Armenians shed blood in Karabakh and they will never ever give up Karabakh back to Azerbaijan. If coerced into such a situation 7.5 million Armenians with one voice (and power) will fight to preserve Karabakh’s /Artsakh’s independence and freedom. In addition Armenians are never forget nor forgive such action, whoever is responsible for it.
    We beg you if you don’t care about justice, prejudice and/or massacre of this suffering Christian nation’s past history. at least don’t put US and the West oil Interests in jeopardy or ruin your legacy…
    Thank you
    Ishkhan Babajanian MD.
    USA
    Oct.15,2008

  2. Very nice letter Ishkan… That is great you voiced your opinion and rightfully so.. I am proud of you..

    I hope this immature and full of false information filled individual does not take this post.. having a spouse who is anti-Armenian, and his own feelings toward the Armenian question, this man will never represent what is right and just…i say, his nomination should be stopped..

    Gayane

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