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Obama’s Envoy Appointment Welcomed by Baku

A decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to directly appoint a new ambassador to Azerbaijan whose nomination had been stalled by lawmakers for months has been welcomed by Baku.

Obama on December 29 bypassed the usual Senate confirmation process to appoint four new envoys whose nominations had been held up, including new Azerbaijan envoy Matthew Bryza.

So-called recess appointments are temporary, lasting only until the end of the next session of Congress.

Bryza, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs under former President George W. Bush, was nominated as the US ambassador to Baku in May 2010, but saw his confirmation stall amid opposition in the US Senate. The post had been vacant since 2009.

Azerbaijan responded by welcoming Bryza's appointment. "We are ready to cooperate with the new ambassador and wish him success," an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax.

Bryza also formerly served as the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group, which seeks to broker a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The deputy chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, Ali Ahmedov, said Baku expects the new envoy to help step up U.S. mediation of those peace talks.

"So far the Minsk Group [of mediators] has not achieved results satisfying Azerbaijan, and the conflict remains unresolved," Ahmedov said, according to the Trend news agency. "Naturally, the U.S. is also somewhat responsible for that."

Bryza's appointment comes after two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez, placed a "hold" on a full Senate vote on the nomination in September.

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 U.S. legislators.

In a statement, the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN), an advocacy organization which has supported the Bryza nomination, called his appointment a "triumph of U.S. national interests and security over special interest of two senators and one ethnic community."

Source: various news sources

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