Embassy Row

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QUESTIONS FROM ARMENIA

A major Armenian-American organization is raising conflict-of-interest questions about Matthew J. Bryza, who is scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday for a hearing on his nomination to serve as ambassador to Azerbaijan, Armenia’s deadly rival.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) says Mr. Bryza, a career diplomat, is too close to major Azerbaijani politicians and is biased against Armenia, which fought Azerbaijan in the early 1990s in an undeclared war. The conflict involved the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had declared independence from Azerbaijan. Armenians are overwhelmingly Christian, while Azerbaijani are mostly Muslim.

In a seven-page statement to the Senate committee, the ANCA also raised concerns about Mr. Bryza’s Turkish wife, Zeyno, director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. Turkey is a close ally to Azerbaijan.

The ANCA noted that Turkish and Azerbaijani business interests funded a major conference at the Hudson Institute, which was organized in part by Mrs. Bryza, and questioned whether a former high-ranking Azerbaijani official helped pay for the Bryzas’ wedding in 2007.

Neither the White House nor the State Department would comment on the issues raised by the ANCA.

“The policy positions that Mrs. Bryza has advocated have often been aligned with those advanced by the State Department, as well as with the interests pursued by the Azerbaijani government and energy corporations with interests in the Caspian [Sea] region,” the ANCA said in its statement on Mr. Bryza.

The group suggested that Mr. Bryza might be in violation of federal ethics rules because of his wife’s connections to Turkish and Azerbaijani business interests.

“Federal employees are also prohibited from participating personally and substantially in a particular government matter that will affect his/her own financial interests, as well as the financial interests of his/her spouse,” the ANCA said.

The group questioned the role that Heydar Babayev, former minister of economic development, played in the Bryzas’ wedding. Mr. Babayev filed a lawsuit against the Azadlig newspaper for publishing a story that said he helped pay for the wedding. Mr. Babayev reportedly said he gave them a wedding gift, which he did not disclose.

The reporter who wrote the story, Adil Khalil, was arrested and beaten before he fled Azerbaijan in July 2008, according to the human rights group Reporters Without Borders.

Mr. Bryza is currently the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs and served as mediator in efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

DIPLOMATIC CAT FIGHT

Embassy Row usually reports on foreign ambassadors in Washington and U.S. ambassadors abroad, but a story about the antics of a South American ambassador to Israel was too good to ignore.

“The diplomatic community in Israel is stunned,” began the breathless lead to a story Wednesday in Ynetnews.com.

Story Continues →

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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