YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The United States named its new top negotiator in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process late Monday, pledging to do “everything possible” to broker a near-term solution to the longstanding conflict.
The State Department said career diplomat Robert Bradtke will replace Matthew Bryza as the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group on Karabakh. “Ambassador Bradtke brings to this position more than thirty-six years of Foreign Service experience and extensive expertise in European security policy,” department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement.
Bradtke was Washington’s ambassador in Croatia until this July and had served as a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for NATO and the OSCE from 2001-2004. His long professional career also includes a two-year stint as executive secretary of the U.S. National Security Council during the final years of Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Bryza has represented the U.S. in the Minsk Group and been closely involved in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks since June 2006, combining that role with the duties of deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, of which he was also relieved last month. His replacement in that position, Tina Kaidanow, is also a career diplomat with extensive experience in the Balkans. Kaidanow served until recently as the first U.S. ambassador to Kosovo.
Bryza has been tipped to move to another post ever since the administration of President Barack Obama took office in January. Recent media reports have said that he could be appointed as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. Neither Bryza, nor the State Department have denied those reports.
Bryza was reported to heap praise on his Minsk Group successor on Tuesday. “Bradtke is an excellent diplomat and a good friend of mine,” the Azerbaijani Trend news agency quoted the former Bush administration official as saying.
“We have informed the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan of Ambassador Bradtke’s appointment,” read the statement issued by Kelly. “Ambassador Bradtke looks forward to his first trip to the region in the coming weeks.”
The Minsk Group’s American, French and Russian co-chairs are due to visit Baku and Yerevan later this month to prepare for another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents that could take place in early October. They hope that the two leaders will overcome their disagreements over a framework peace accord drawn up by the mediating powers.
“We welcome recent positive dialogues between President Sarkisian of Armenia and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan,” a State Department spokesman said. “Secretary Clinton has indicated to the two presidents her strong interest in the Minsk Group’s ongoing efforts to bring the process to a fruitful conclusion, and the Obama Administration is committed to doing everything possible to support this goal.”
Azerbaijan has welcomed Bradtke’s appointment, Azeri Froeign Ministry Spokesman Elkhan Polokhov was quoted by the Azeri Today.az on Monday. Polokhov used the opportunity to reiterate Baku’s official position on the peace process, namely that Karabakh cannot be given independence and that the negotiations must continue along this logic.
“Our position on the fair resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains the same. The conflict must be solved under country’s territorial integrity and granting a high status of autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh. The talks can be continued only in this direction,” Polukhov said.