WASHINGTON — Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) raised policy issues during this week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing of Ambassador-Designate Matthew Bryza, reported the Armenian Assembly of America.
Presiding over the hearing, Shaheen began her round of questions by asking Bryza to respond to her constituents’ concerns, including accusations regarding his close ties to senior Azerbaijani officials. Bryza indicated that he maintains professional relationships with not only Azeri officials, but also with those in Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. Bryza also assured the Committee that his wedding was not funded by outside sources. Shaheen then raised concerns regarding freedom of the press in Azerbaijan and the case of the two jailed bloggers. Bryza indicated that if confirmed, civil liberties, especially media freedom, would be a top priority for him.
Boxer raised the issue of Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric and military escalation; the June 18th Azeri attack resulting in the death of four Armenian soldiers; the importance of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and the destruction of a centuries-old Armenian cemetery in Julfa by Azerbaijani soldiers. Boxer pressed Bryza for answers and in several instances did not feel that Bryza answered her questions directly. Boxer also urged condemnation of Azerbaijan’s war mongering in the strongest of terms.
Bryza stated that “there is no military solution” to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and reaffirmed US policy in support of the three equal pillars of the Helsinki Final Act: non-use of force or the threat of force, the principle of territorial integrity and equal rights and self determination of peoples.
In addition, Boxer raised concerns about the slow pace of US funding to Nagorno Karabagh.
“We applaud Senator Boxer for seeking to ensure that the next Ambassador to Azerbaijan forcefully condemn Azerbaijan’s military aggression against the people of Nagorno Karabagh,” stated Daron Hovannesian, Assembly intern from California who was present at the hearing.