An influential American-Armenian group has called for a careful scrutiny of the record of an Obama nominee, a former mediator in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, to take a diplomatic post in Baku.
Earlier this week, Matthew Bryza, who until last August advanced international efforts on a Karabakh solution as the United States cochairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, was named the White House choice to become ambassador to Azerbaijan where Washington has not had an ambassador since last July.
Commenting on Bryza’s and other officials’ appointments, U.S. President Barack Obama, in particular, said: “These talented and dedicated individuals will be valued additions to my Administration. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
The move prompted the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), one of several large Armenian advocacy groups in the United States, to launch a nationwide campaign calling upon U.S. Senators to carefully scrutinize Bryza’s diplomatic record on issues impacting U.S. interests and American values in the Caucasus, Southeastern Europe, and the surrounding region.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Thursday, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said the Armenian-American community has “a number of concerns” about the nomination of Bryza, including his diplomatic track record and professional conduct “at the various posts he held dealing with the Caucasus region.” He also expressed concerns about the former Karabakh negotiator’s “flawed idea that there is a hierarchy of values between territorial integrity and self-determination.”
“We feel [this idea] is really very much at odds with the American ideals which really put a premium on democracy and self-determination as the driving forces […] in resolving the conflicts,” Hamparian said.
The Minsk Group in which Bryza was cochairmen has tried for years to reconcile the two seemingly conflicting principles of international law invoked by the parties to the Karabakh conflict. While Azerbaijan insists that territorial integrity prevails, the Armenian side is making a case for the right of Karabakh’s people to independence under international law.
In his comments Hamparian also challenged what he described as Bryza’s denialist position on the Armenian genocide and his responsibility for “the lack of U.S. response to the desecration of a seventh-century Armenian cemetery in Nakhijevan.”
Hamparian stressed that “America provides that senators need to review and give approval to the appointment of ambassadors to foreign nations”, which he said was “a healthy, productive and constructive process.” “I think that will make sure that America is represented well both in terms of our interests as a country and our values as a people,” he said.
“What we are looking for at this stage is a careful scrutiny, a review of the record, an examination of the testimony and a chance to take a close look at the answers that Mr. Bryza provides in response to the questions of the hearing… I hope that will help us better understand his qualifications and also the type of leadership that he would provide in this very important post,” concluded Hamparian.