The US Senate’s failure to confirm the appointment of acting ambassador Matthew Bryza to Baku threatens to undercut Azerbaijani relations with the United States.
Bryza’s mandate as US envoy expired at the end of 2011 when the Senate did not take action to approve his recess appointment by US President Barack Obama. Bryza’s nomination had been opposed by Armenian Diaspora lobbying groups, which apparently believed that the diplomat had overly cozy ties to Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Bryza -- an experienced career diplomat who served as the US envoy in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, as well as point-man for coordination of US energy policy in the Caspian Basin -- was dispatched to Baku by Obama in early 2011 to serve as ambassador to Baku on a temporary basis. The Senate’s failure to act on his appointment once again creates a void in a diplomatically sensitive area. The nomination process must now start afresh. Deputy Chief of Mission Adam Sterling is expected to lead the embassy in Baku until a new envoy arrives.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter in Baku and a board member of the Open Society Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan.