Obama Renominates Bryza for Full Term as Ambassador to Azerbaijan

Sen. Menendez Disappointed at Obama’s Recess Appointment of Bryza

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Barack Obama, in the wake of his controversial last-minute “recess” appointment of Matt Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan in the final days of 2010, is now seeking formal Senate support for extending the term of this contentious envoy’s service in Baku, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The president’s recess appointment of Bryza, in the last days of the 111th Congress, came despite “holds” placed on his confirmation by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

A “hold” is a Senatorial privilege that effectively blocks the full Senate from voting upon a presidential nomination.  The president’s push to get Bryza to Baku reflects a lack of concern on the part of his administration regarding Bryza’s unusually close and controversial ties to Azerbaijani government officials, his deeply troubling track record as a senior diplomat dealing with the Caucasus, and persistent conflict of interest issues related to the Caspian energy industry.

“Armenian American voters are, once again, disappointed that President Obama—having failed to honor any of his many pledges to Armenian American voters—is now, over the strong objections of Senators from his own party, pressing for Senate confirmation of his controversial and deeply flawed recess appointment of Matt Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian.  “We look to Senators to stand up for U.S. interests, American values, and our nation’s diplomatic credibility by doing everything in their power to prevent the confirmation of this candidate.”

Armenian Americans are encouraged to express their concerns about Obama’s decision, and to urge the Senate to block his confirmation by sending free ANCA WebMails using the links below.

ANCA WebMail to President Obama: http://anca.org/action_alerts/012711_bryza_president.php

ANCA WebMail to U.S. Senators: http://anca.org/action_alerts/012711_bryza_senate.php

Bryza, who had served as Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mink Group co-chair, charged with mediating the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict from 2006 through 2009, was nominated for U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan in May 2010. The ANCA opposed his nomination, issuing a 10-page report citing issues ranging from conflict of interest concerns to his prolonged inaction in the face of the Azerbaijani government’s destruction of the 13th-century Armenian cemetery in Djulfa, and his inordinately close ties to the dictatorial Aliyev Administration.

A complete overview of ANCA concerns can be found at http://www.anca.org/assets/pdf/misc/BryzaNomination.pdf.


Upon learning of Obama’s recess appointment of Bryza, Sen. Menendez expressed concern, stating, “I am disappointed by the administration’s decision to recess appoint Matthew Bryza as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan without addressing the concerns raised by Senators during his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—chiefly his refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.”

Menendez continued, noting, “This is a matter of respect for the Armenian people. The Armenian Genocide was one of the great atrocities of modern history and it is unconscionable that we would send a diplomat to the region who does not support recognizing what is considered among historians to be the first modern genocide. It is my fervent hope that administration will adopt the comment made by President Obama in 2008 that ‘the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence’ as a tenet of U.S. foreign policy to be reflected in the words and actions of our foreign service personnel in the region.”

Following his Senate confirmation hearing in July 2010, Bryza was asked to respond to several rounds of written questions from Senators regarding his track record in the region. The holds by Senators Boxer and Menendez came after reviewing his testimony, written responses, and reviewing his diplomatic record, effectively blocking a vote on his nomination by the full Senate.

In her remarks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on his candidacy, Boxer explained that she voted against the Bryza nomination because he had not demonstrated the willingness or the ability to meaningfully confront Azerbaijan’s aggression. “Despite my appreciation for Mr. Bryza’s long service as a Foreign Service Officer, I don’t believe he is the right person for this position,” explained Boxer. “What concerns me is that Mr. Bryza has demonstrated a pattern of unwillingness to speak out forcefully in the face of increasing Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno-Karabagh.”

Menendez, who has played a constructive role in reviewing the Bryza confirmation process, noted that he had “serious reservations about the U.S. ambassador nominee to Azerbaijan,” citing Bryza’s inaction in the face of Azerbaijan’s desecration of the Djulfa cemetery and close personal ties to regional leaders, and therefore his ability to act as an unbiased representative of the United States in Azerbaijan.

Even Senators voting in favor of Bryza expressed worries about his nomination. The panel’s chairman, John Kerry (D-Mass.), stated that he appreciated the concerns raised by Senators Menendez and Boxer and anticipated continued Senate scrutiny. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) issued a statement following the vote, stating that he found concerns raised by constituents and others “troubling, particularly Mr. Bryza’s relationship with the Azerbaijan government.”


  1. This all can be sumerized by a very simple point made by The Wall Street Journal when they ran an article dealing with this topic a few months ago (right after Sens. Menendez and Boxer placed a hold on the nominations), listing Boxer as “Sen. Boxer (D-Armenia)”! Says it all! 

  2. To understand the situation in the right way as well as U.S. President Obama’s decision making one should know about Bryza-Mr. Sarksyan interaction on the first days of March 2008 when Mr. Sarksyan’s policemen and snipers were killing Armenian peacefully protesting citizens on the Yerevan streets to terrorize the Armenian society that used to dispute the rigged presidential elections under the head of Levon Ter Petrosyan, the first Armenian President. After the terror against the Armenian population Mr. Sarksyan became the illegal President of Armenia. Mr. Bryza wanted to know why Yerevanis were being killed, and Mr. Sarksyan the illegal President of Armenia explained it in a Leninist way that “Democracy is able to defend itself.” Poor Bryza was frustrated to hear that a Prime Minister or a President has to kill peaceful citizens on the streets to “defend Democracy.” Mr. Sarksyan was repeating Mr. Bloodert Kocharyan’s words uttered 4 years before that on Russian TV, “Democracy is able to defend itself.”Bloodert Kocharyan said that after rigging 2004 Presidential elections in Armenia. Then, Russians were not frustrated but had the expectation that Leninist “RED TERROR” is coming back through Karabakhis russified Armenians with Islamist attitudes. Given this one can easily understand why President Obama wants to correct his own grave mistake of 2009 when he received the terrorist President of Armenia in Washington, DC. President Obama hopes that Mr. Bryza will be able to punish Mr. Sarksyan, Armenia’s illegal President, who is as illegal as Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri President. (Though Ilham Aliyev has one advantage – he has not killed anyone.) I am sure it is not moral to correct one’s own mistake at the expense of others — whether these others are Republicans or Christians or Islamists. In fact, President Obama is punishing the Armenia people, who are struggling against Sarksyan administration Terror and getting disappointed with Obama Administration. Even Bush Administration was not that much short-sighted. This is why, Sen. Menendez, an exceptionally respectful personality is disappointed. I am afraid Mr. Obama is writing the dirtiest pages in the history of the United States of America.

  3. Dr. Jeshmaridian,

    Your post is well written, scholarly and thought provoking. You are to be commended doctor! I’m not so sure, however, if President Sarkisian is exactly the way he’s being portrayed. I’ve always thought that he was duly elected, and have felt that he has a forward and positive vision for Armenia (e.g. signing the protocols). I didn’t know anything about the killing of protestors ordered by him. I realize that every country has its share of dubious leaders (Turkey is by no means an exception). Do you feel the real answer lies in changing the government violently (a la Egypt), or peacefully (a la the Western nations)? Or, do you feel it might be better to work together with his administration, so as to address everyone’s concerns? I look forward to reading your viewpoints. Thank you. 

  4. Robert –
    Actually, Sarkissian was much loathed for succumbing to external pressure to sign the humiliating for Armenians protocols. Most of his own citizens and the prevailing number of Diaspora Armenians denounced the protocols. Positive vision for Armenia would be best reflected in signing a standard memorandum of understanding, in which no idiotic provisions, such as historical subcommission on the internationally-recognized fact of the Armenians genocide, or acceptance of former treaties on which Armenia was a non-signatory, or acknowledgment of existing borders, which were changed at the expense of Armenia’s historical homeland, had taken place. But if you think that “a forward and positive vision” was exhibited at the signing of the protocols, might you know why the Turkish government reneged ar ratifying them?

  5. Arsen jan… don’t worry.. Robert will not answer truthfully to your question.. he is built to spread his idiotic thoughts and comments from his Islamist Turkish mentality.. not from an actual, well thought out, open minded individual.

    We are very familiar with his Anti-ARmenian propaganda means and I was not surprised to read his first comment and then his second… This guy, woman or whatever he or she is truly boils my blood including many others..

    Robert.. no comment for you as you already know…

    Obama is piece of you know what for doing this.. of course he will do whatever in his power to get to what he has been dreaming ever since he got to the office.. to be the “master” over many .. and that will happen if one does not kick his sorry ass out of the office…


  6. Arsen,

    First of all, how is President Sarkisian’s name spelled? I’ve seen different variations and I’d like to get it right.

    Second, governments do what they do everywhere in the world (as they’ve done for thousands of years). Our voices are just that…voices. Perhaps President Sarkisian see’s something that you are not seeing. I remember hearing last year that the people of Armenia proper had no problem with the protocols. Apparently, as I understand it, it was only after the interference of the ARF (and their radically different viewpoints) from the US and Europe, that the waters became “muddy” and confusion ranked supreme in Armenia. And under extreme pressure from the aggitation caused by the ARF, riots ensued and President Sarkisian become “gun shy”. In fact, if you go to YoungTurks, they talk about this very same thing.

    Finally, all this could be resolved if everyone would just get a puppy and realize God’s love and His plan for ALL of us! 


  7. Robert –
    Whatever Sarkisian as a human being sees that I’m not seeing (re: protocols) is his personal business and an opinion that he can keep to himself. And I’ll keep mine to myself. But as president representing the nation Sarkisian cannot simply see what he wants to see. He needs to look at things through the memories, aspirations, and national interest reflected by his people. And ARF and other groups both in Armenia and the Diaspora, which represent one indivisible nation, reminded the president about his primary obligation. You’re wrong in having heard that the people of Armenia proper had no problem with the protocols. They had no problem with establishing neighborly relations with the Turks. In fact, sociological polls showed that the majority of people in Armenia opposed protocols not as a step towards rapprochement, but in the form and substance they were submitted for signing. You’re also wrong in assuming that only after the interference of the ARF from the US and Europe that the waters became “muddy.” Confusion ensued because the people of Armenia were given inexcusably short time to dwell on the documents between the initial announcement of the government’s intention and actual signing. You’re also mistaken in saying that riots(?!) ensued and the president became “gun shy” afterwards. I saw demonstrations, protest processions. sit-ins, and other civil actions of tens of thousands of citizens of Armenia, but no single case of “riot” had been reported.

  8. Arsen jan… lava vor gone du tesar te inch mtatselakepri marta es robert kochetsyala..

    bravo gratsit hamar Arsen jan..

    Robert–.. for a split second you sound someone who wants things to work out and wants harmony and unity ..unfortunately we are very familiar with you and your mentality so that wish is out of the window…

    what reports are you reading sir? Fresh out of Turkey? If that is the case, then maybe your statement could be true… but those of us who have families living in ARmeia got a different story about the protocols and everything else you mentioned….. as far as they are concerned, they did not and will not support these so called fake and nonsense protocols..so keep on reading your inaccurate reports…

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