Aris Ghazinyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Matthew Bryza, an Obama pick for a diplomatic posting in Baku, was
put on the defensive during recent Senate hearings.

The prospect of former OSCE Minsk Group mediator on the Karabakh issue
settlement Matthew Bryza's possible appointment as the US Ambassador
to Azerbaijan has become one of the most discussed subjects in Armenia.

The main issue in this connection is: how can Ambassador Bryza impact
the negotiation process considering his close relations with Turkey's
and Azerbaijan's political circles and his kindred relations with a
famous Turkish family?

The recent hearings at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs
during which Bryza, as the nominee for US Ambassador in Azerbaijan,
was asked impartial questions related to his partial position on the
Karabakh issue settlement, have made this issue more urgent.

On June 20 the Washington Times published an article citing the
concerns voiced by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)
over Bryza's close relations with Azerbaijani and Turkish political
circles and fuel-communication companies.

Bryza has many levers of influence on the region, and regardless of his
mission - Minsk Group (MG) mediator or US Ambassador to Azerbaijan -
he is a constant presence in the South Caucasus, and has been for
many years.

As deputy head of the US State Department's office of Europe and
Eurasia and deputy assistant to the Secretary of State he has
constantly worked with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

During the Senate hearings, Senator Robert Menendez reminded him
that the US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans was released of his
duties after using the phrase "Armenian Genocide". "What was your
role in firing Evans" he asked Bryza, who, in response, said he had
no involvement in that issue.

Bryza was also asked the reasons for his firm conviction that
Nagorno-Karabakh has to be part of Azerbaijan.

Right from the moment of his appointment as MG mediator Bryza lobbied
this option, and in his interview to the BBC he candidly said
the principle of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity was dominant
over all other principles, including that of nations' right to

Senator Menendez asked Bryza: "Isn't the principle of national
self-determination among the most important principles in America's

Bryza did not give a direct answer to that question, and made a
reference to the position of the then Vice-President Dick Cheney
saying that earlier, even before his interview to the BBC, Cheney
said in Baku that the settlement of this conflict had to meet the
principles of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

Bryza marked his joining the OCSE MG in 2005 by presenting the
so-called Framework Agreement, which, as he said, "calls for the
withdrawal of the Armenian troops from those territories of Azerbaijan
where they are currently quartered".

It was during the time period of Bryza's mission as a mediator that
the Madrid Principles came up, providing for a new status to Nagorno
Karabakh, but only under the condition of being an indispensable part
of Azerbaijan. That was in November, 2007.

"If we recognize the independence of this or that territorial unit
every time the issue of self-determination is raised, the other norm
of the Helsinki Act will be violated - the principle of territorial
integrity," stated Bryza back then.

Bryza's appearance at OSCE MG activated the operation of the
International Crisis Group (ICG): the recommendations of this group
often influence the final decisions on this or that issue.

"As Deputy Secretary of State I often used the ICG products. Reports
compiled by this group and their analytical researches, as a rule,
had the kind of information that was impossible to receive from other
sources. So, no wonder their recommendations played their part in
the process of making final political decisions," said Strobe Talbott.

With Bryza's appointment as the American co-chair of Minsk Group the
ICG reports grew more and more rigorous and unambiguous.

In September, 2005, ICG made public the report text on Nagorno
Karabakh, which said in part: "Nagorno Karabakh wants independence
and grounds its capacity to build a sovereign state by having a
democratically elected government in accordance to the terms and
standards of statehood. However, from the international perspective
Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan... Nagorno Karabakh is one of the most
militarized communities on earth."

It was this report that prompted the Azeri authorities to start making
more radical appeals, and, what's important is that Bryza never once
criticized Azerbaijan's bellicose rhetoric.

Bryza's constant presence in the region (now as the US Ambassador to
Azerbaijan) will result in an even more active work of the Crisis
Group, the position of which is based on the condition of Nagorno
Karabakh being part of Azerbaijan.

From: A. Papazian