Ambassador to Azerbaijan...Not So Fast: Who is Matthew Bryza?

Monday, August 16, 2010
On May 25, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Matthew J. Bryza to serve as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. Bryza is a veteran Foreign Service officer well-versed in the politics of the Caspian region, whose previous assignment put him in charge of European and Eurasian affairs for the State Department. On the surface, his confirmation seemed be a no-brainer, but the Armenian-American community expressed several concerns about Bryza. One is a possible conflict of interest relating to Bryza’s wife, Zeyno Baran, who was the Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute, which receives funding from oil and gas interests that have an interest in U.S. business policy towards Azerbaijan. Other objections include Byrza’s position on the ongoing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh, and Bryza’s tepid response to the December 2005 destruction of a 7th Century Armenian cemetery by the Azerbaijani military.
 
Bryza’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was held on July 22. On August 3, at the request of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), a vote on Bryza’s nomination was postponed until after Congress’ summer recess. President Obama finally gave Bryza a recess appointment on December 29.
 
The son of Kenneth and Carol Bryza, Matt Bryza attended college at Stanford University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in international relations. He earned his master’s degree in the same field from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
 
In 1988, Bryza joined the Foreign Service, and the following year was stationed in Poland at the U.S. Consulate in Poznań and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, where he covered the "Solidarity" movement, reform of Poland’s security services and regional politics.
 
He returned to Washington and worked on European and Russian affairs at the State Department during 1991-1995.
 
Bryza was then sent to Russia to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during 1995-1997, first as special assistant to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and then as a political officer covering the Russian Duma, the Communist Party, and the Republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus. However, he was recalled to Washington in August 1997 after the car he was driving hit a pedestrian, sending her to the hospital with a serious head injury.
 
From 1997-1998, Bryza was special advisor to Richard Morningstar, himself the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance to the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, coordinating U.S. government assistance programs on economic reform in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
 
Bryza served as the deputy to the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy from July 1998 to March 2001. In this capacity, he coordinated the U.S. government’s inter-agency effort to develop a network of oil and gas pipelines in the Caspian region.
 
In April 2001, Bryza joined the National Security Council as Director for Europe and Eurasia, with responsibility for coordinating U.S. policy on Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Caspian energy.
 
He became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in June 2005, with responsibility for policy oversight and management of relations with countries in the Caucasus and Southern Europe. He also led U.S. efforts to advance peaceful settlements of the separatist conflicts of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Bryza was the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, which has the task of mediting a peace deal in the Nargorno-Karabakh conflict. Additionally, Bryza coordinated U.S. energy policy in the regions surrounding the Black and Caspian Seas, and worked with European countries on issues of tolerance, social integration and Islam.
 
He married Zeyno Baran, a Turkish scholar, in Istanbul, Turkey, in August 2007.
 
Bryza is fluent in Russian and Polish, and also speaks German and Spanish.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
ANCA Confronts Bryza Bias On Nagorno Karabagh (Armenian National Committee of America)

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