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Azerbaijan: Bryza Clears Big Confirmation Hurdle

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has approved the nomination of Matthew Bryza as Washington’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, a post that has been vacant for more than a year. Azerbaijani media energetically heralded the committee vote, although most online outlets misinterpreted it to mean that Bryza had been confirmed as the new US envoy to Baku.

After a prolonged tussle over Bryza’s reputedly cozy ties to members of the Azerbaijani government, committee members voted 17-to-2 to approve Bryza’s appointment, RFE/RL reported. Bryza’s nomination to the post, made by US President Barack Obama in May, still requires confirmation by the full US Senate. The committee vote occurred on September 21.

The confirmation process has not been smooth for Bryza, a career diplomat who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and was Washington’s most visible representative in the South Caucasus under President George W. Bush. Bryza’s nomination provoked an angry response from Armenian Diaspora groups in the United States. Two senators – Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) -- voted against Bryza’s nomination in committee.

While Azerbaijani media applauded the committee action, officials in Baku were in no hurry to comment on the development. Senior officials responsible for Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, including Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and chief of the presidential administration’s Foreign Policy Department, Novruz Mammadov, are currently in New York, accompanying President Ilham Aliyev at the United Nations General Assembly. Aliyev’s scheduled September 24 meeting with President Obama now ranks as the most important issue for local media.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Elkhan Polukhov declined to comment to EurasiaNet.org about the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on Bryza. “It is premature to comment so long as Matthew Bryza needs to get the support of the whole Senate for confirmation,” Polukhov said.

Vafa Guluzade, a presidential foreign policy aide from 1991 to 1999, called the controversy over Bryza’s familiarity with Azerbaijan’s ruling elite “a storm in a glass.” He dismissed the contention that Bryza, if confirmed as ambassador, would act as a booster for Aliyev’s administration.

“I also have very good personal relations with him. But that does not mean that I or anyone else could persuade Bryza to write a letter to President Obama asking him to send US troops to liberate Karabakh,” Guluzade said sarcastically.

Ilgar Mammadov, a Baku-based political analyst and founder of the Respublikaci Alternative opposition group, believes that Bryza’s close ties with Azerbaijan’s political establishment make him “not a good candidate” since “democratic groups in Azerbaijan will always question this issue.”

Guluzade believes that the Armenian Diaspora campaign against Bryza in the Senate was “some kind of game” designed to prolong “the uncertainty in US-Azerbaijani relations.”

“They know that his appointment does not threaten Armenia’s interests at all,” he said.

Source: Eurasia.net
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