U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan: Who Is Robert Cekuta?
On September 17, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing into the nomination of Robert F. Cekuta, a career Foreign Service officer, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. If confirmed, it will be the first ambassadorial post for Cekuta.
Cekuta, who’s from New York, attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, graduating in 1976 with a B.S. He then went to the Thunderbird School of Global Management, earning a Master’s in International Marketing in 1978. He later earned another Master’s degree, in national security strategies, from the National War College.
He joined the Foreign Service in 1978 and his early postings included Vienna, Austria; Baghdad, Iraq; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Sana’a, Yemen. He also directed a task force in Kosovo during the conflict there and served in the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs. From 1996 to 1999, he was deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania.
Much of Cekuta’s career has focused on business and trade issues. In 1999, he was senior advisor to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and in 2000 he was named director of Economic Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy in the State Department. Cekuta in 2002 was named director of the Iraq Economic Group in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. In 2002, he was also a special negotiator for biotechnology in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Beginning in 2003, Cekuta was economic minister-counselor at the embassy in Berlin and in 2007 he was sent to Tokyo as the minister-counselor for economic affairs.
Cekuta came home in 2010, first as senior advisor for Food Security in the State Department and later that year as deputy assistant secretary of state for Energy, Sanctions and Commodities. One of his more prominent roles involved working with the jewelry industry on compliance with regulations on conflict diamonds and gold.
Since 2011, Cekuta has been deputy assistant secretary of state in the Energy Resources Bureau. As such, he has acted as a point man for the State Department’s views on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada into the United States. That experience will come in handy in Azerbaijan, a major oil producer.
Cekuta and his wife, Anne, have three children. He speaks German, Arabic and Albanian.
To Learn More:
State Department Cables 1992-2009 (WikiLeaks)
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