WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — Bypassing the US Senate and ignoring strong objections from its pro-Armenian members, President Barack Obama has appointed Matthew Bryza, his former chief Nagorno-Karabagh negotiator, as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.
The White House announced this and three other “recess appointments” of ambassadors late on Wednesday after failing to secure their endorsement by the “lame-duck” Senate.
Bryza’s candidacy for the vacant post in Baku, formally nominated by Obama in spring, met with strong resistance from Armenian-American groups and their backers in the US Congress. Two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez, placed a “hold” on a full Senate vote on the nomination in September.
They said the nominee failed to address their concerns about his alleged pro-Azerbaijani bias in the Nagorno- Karabagh conflict. Menendez claimed that Bryza’s “very close personal ties to Turkey and Azerbaijan” compromise his “ability to act as an unbiased representative of the United States in Azerbaijan.”
Bryza denied such ties as well as pro- Azerbaijani statements attributed to him in the past during Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings in July and in his subsequent written answers to some US legislators.
The Armenian Assembly of America said in a statement: “We remain deeply troubled by Azerbaijan’s continued war-rhetoric aimed against Armenia and the increasing frequency of cease-fire violations along the Nagorno Karabagh border. The recess appointment of Bryza remains in effect for one year only. The new ambassador will be judged on his ability to address Azerbaijan’s military escalation before more lives are lost and also to ensure that the US goals of regional and economic integration are met,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “US representatives in Baku need to address Azerbaijan’s intransigence and its decades-long blockade of Armenia, actions which undermine US security interests and continue to serve as a destabilizing force in the region.”