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Azerbaijan, an oil-rich Central Asian nation and key U.S. ally, has had no American ambassador since January and is growing restless for U.S. diplomatic attention.

“It is necessary to appoint an ambassador to our country for the dynamic development of Azerbaijani-U.S. relations,” presidential spokesman Elnur Aslanov told reporters this week in the Azeri capital, Baku.

In Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved President Obama’s nominee for the position, Richard Morningstar, a career diplomat.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Morningstar would replace the controversial Matthew Bryza, whom Mr. Obama appointed for a temporary, yearlong term during a congressional recess in 2010.

Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, tried to block Mr. Bryza’s nomination because they suspected he was too biased in his support for Azerbaijan in its ethnic and territorial disputes with neighboring Armenia.

Both senators draw strong support from Armenian-Americans, a small but influential voting bloc.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.