- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 16, 2010


In the hottest diplomatic dispute facing Congress as it convenes next week, Armenian-Americans are stepping up their campaign to prevent Matthew J. Bryza from serving as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider his nomination on Tuesday.

They have picked up support from Cypriot-Americans, who complain that Mr. Bryza, whose wife was born in Turkey, is biased toward Turkish positions on Cyprus.

“Mr. Bryza, with every new dodge, digs himself a deeper and deeper hole, demonstrating why he is so clearly the wrong choice to be U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan,” said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

“Our nation’s interests in Baku [the Azeri capital] and throughout the Caucasus would be best served by a fresh start with a nominee that doesn’t bring such baggage and bias to this important diplomatic posting.”

The Cyprus Action Network of America on Monday registered its opposition to Mr. Bryza.

“Matt Bryza’s troubling diplomatic record and his conflict of interest issues in regard to his bias toward Turkey’s cycle of impunity and denial of Turkey’s crime of genocide and Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus makes him an unsuitable representative in any post,” it said in a statement.

Mr. Bryza has been unable to defend himself against the criticism because of diplomatic protocol that prohibits career Foreign Service officers from discussing their nomination in public. The State Department also declines to discuss diplomatic appointments awaiting Senate confirmation. He tried to respond to some of the attack in his July hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, but his answers failed to satisfy his Senate critics.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, and Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, peppered Mr. Bryza with pointed questions at the hearing and sent him detailed follow-up questions. Mrs. Boxer blocked a vote on his nomination before the congressional summer recess.

Armenian-Americans claim Mr. Bryza is too friendly with Azeri officials in negotiations over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan that declared independence in 1988, sparking a civil war with Azerbaijan until a cease-fire in 1994.

Cypriot-Americans complain that Mr. Bryza refused to condemn the presence of Turkish troops in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes. They also criticize Mr. Bryza for refusing to use the word “genocide” to describe the killing of Armenians by Turks in World War I.

Mr. Menendez, in his written questions, asked Mr. Bryza to “explain why you believe that a U.S. [congressional] resolution recognizing the genocide in Armenia would harm our relationship with Turkey.”

Mr. Bryza, a career Foreign Service officer, has repeated U.S. policy on all of those issues. President Obama and former President George W. Bush called for political settlements in Cyprus and in Nagorno-Karabakh and avoided referring to an Armenian genocide to prevent angering Turkey, a key NATO ally.

In May, Mr. Obama announced Mr. Bryza’s selection, along with three other nominees for other positions.

“These talented and dedicated individuals will be valued additions to my administration,” he said. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

On Tuesday, the Foreign Relations Committee will also consider the nominations of Alexander A. Arvizu to be ambassador to Albania; Norman L. Eisen as ambassador to the Czech Republic; and Joseph A. Mussomeli to be ambassador to Slovenia. Mr. Eisen, a former Washington lawyer, is a political appointment, while the other two are career diplomats.

The hearing begins at 2:15 p.m. in Room S-116 of the Capitol.

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