WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted last week in favor of the administration’s nominee, Matthew Bryza, to serve as the next US ambassador to Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian Assembly of America. The committee action sets the stage for consideration by the full Senate. Azerbaijan has not had a US ambassador in place for some 15 months. However, Assembly sources have indicated that a “Senatorial hold” is likely, and could delay the nomination until November when Congress reconvenes for a lame duck session.
The 19-member committee approved Bryza’s nomination with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) voting against his confirmation. In the July confirmation hearing, both senators grilled Bryza regarding several public statements and actions. The Assembly praised Senators Boxer and Menendez as well as other members of the Committee for their robust questioning and review of policy issues.
During the confirmation hearing, Bryza 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. Bryza also reiterated the US and OSCE Minsk Group position that there can be “no military solution” to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. Bryza also conceded that: “it’s impossible to reach a mutually agreed settlement that includes the views of the people who are the subject of the settlement, the residents of Nagorno Karabagh, if their views are not taken into account.” The Assembly’s long held position is that any settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh peace process must be acceptable to the people of Artsakh, and guarantee their safety and security, free from Azerbaijan’s tyrannical rule.
Bryza has also referred to Nagorno Karabagh by its Armenian name, Artsakh, which conveys additional meaning.
In the Assembly’s letter to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Member Richard Lugar, the Assembly expressed strong concerns regarding Azerbaijan’s actions, including its: 1) continued threats of war against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh; 2) rapid increase of its military budget; 3) blockade against Armenia in coordination with Turkey; 4) rejection of US funding for confidence building measures; 5) intransigence regarding the Nagorno Karabagh peace process; 6) attempts to eliminate all traces of Armenian culture as evidenced by the complete destruction of a centuries-old Armenian cemetery in Julfa, and 7) derailment of Armenia-Turkey rapprochement and the resulting Protocols, which were supported by the Obama Administration.
As the nomination process continues, the Assembly urges committee members to ensure that Azerbaijan complies with the requirements of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which according to a US State Department report, Azerbaijan is in violation of its treaty obligations. In addition, the Assembly reiterates its view that the next US Ambassador to Azerbaijan must uphold President Obama’s stated policies in 2008 to “promote Armenian security by seeking an end to the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades and work “for a lasting and durable settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict that is agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles of democracy and self determination.”