BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Last week at the Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearings, President Obama’s nominee for the US Ambassadorial post in Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, assured senators that he would be impartial if confirmed to the top US post in Baku and always serve US interests as the job calls for.
The Azeri elite and the US Azerbaijani community are elated at Obama’s choice of Bryza to represent US interests and the Azeri media has reported on the close relations that Bryza shares with Azeri leaders and Baku establishment.
Bryza contends that neither his close relations to Azeri elite nor his marriage to Turkish activist Zeyno Baran would taint his mission as the US’s top diplomat in Baku.
Needless to say that reports that a large portion of his wedding were paid for by Azeri Energy Minister Natik Aliyev resulted in the arrest of the journalists who broke the story. And what of Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov standing up for the blushing groom as a groom’s man at the wedding?
Today’s Zaman reported at the time that Mammadyarov served as a “witness” alongside Bryza’s college buddies Mike Polacek and Mike Bordon. Clearly his “close” relations with Azeri leaders have transcended the realm of diplomatic norms and have spilled into his most intimate of moments—his marriage.
Despite the assurances Bryza gave to the Congressional panel tasked with facilitating the approval of his nomination by the entire Senate, it is evident that his nomination is fraught with conflicts of interest stemming from his too close for comfort relations with the Aliyev administration.
At the hearing senators Bob Menendez, Barbara Boxer and Jeanne Shaheen addressed concerns about the conflicts of interests plaguing his nomination, to which Bryza gave inconclusive responses.
The Obama White House has placed its appointees and nominees under a great deal of scrutiny, to an extent that some key positions have still not been filled. One wonders why the same equation is not being applied in the case of the top US diplomat in Baku.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must reject President Obama’s nominee to represent US interests in Azerbaijan and the president should withdraw Bryza’s nomination in favor of an individual who will genuinely represent US interests in this key part of the world.