- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, I have great regard for the group Reporters Without Borders. Unfortunately, the article co-written by its president, Jean-Francois Julliard (“Emissary entanglements,” Opinion, Aug. 12)is not up to the organization’s usually high standards.

In particular, the characterization of Ambassador-designate to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza as someone unconcerned with human rights is simply incorrect. In a decade of working with Mr. Bryza, I have found his work on behalf of the oppressed to be unremitting, skillful and creative. In the period leading up to Georgia’s Rose Revolution, for example, I remember Mr. Bryza approaching me with the idea to ask former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to visit his old friend, President Eduard Shevardnadze, to urge free and fair 2003 elections.

It would have been all too easy to conclude that Georgia’s freedom was assured with the Rose Revolution. Instead, Mr. Bryza, who had known the new president, Mikhail Saakashvili, visited Tbilisi frequently to help ensure that the hard work of building a new democracy continued. Since my 2004 return to the International Republican Institute, we have worked closely with Mr. Bryza as he went to similar great lengths to advance democracy in challenging countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The attacks against reporters described in Mr. Julliard’s letter are an all-too-frequent occurrence in authoritarian Azerbaijan. Blaming them on an American diplomat recalls Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s “blame America first” speech, and does not comport with Mr. Bryza’s efforts to advance press and other freedoms throughout Eurasia. America’s myriad interests in Azerbaijan will continue if Mr. Bryza is our ambassador there, and he will ensure that freedom is at the top of our agenda.

The United States - and Azerbaijan’s democrats - will be well-served if one of our most talented diplomats is confirmed as ambassador to Baku.

LORNE W. CRANER

President, International Republican Institute

Washington

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