By Giorgi Lomsadze
In case you were worrying, rest assured that Caucasus celebrity Matthew Bryza, the never-confirmed former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, has, according to Azerbaijani media, “found a new job.” Or, as one news outlet from Azerbaijani enemy Armenia, put it: “The Azerbaijanis found a job for Bryza.”
Bryza, a household name for everyone in (or with an interest in) the Caucasus, left Baku in 2011 after the US Senate, with active prodding from Armenian Diaspora lobbyists, failed to uphold his appointment as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.
But Washington’s longtime point man for the Caucasus has not gone far. He will stay close at hand to serve on the board of directors of Turkey’s Turcas Petrol, an oil company affiliated with Azerbaijan’s state oil and gas giant, SOCAR.
In opposing Bryza’s appointment to Baku, Diaspora lobbyists took strong issue with what they claimed was his bias in Azerbaijan’s favor — a charge he hotly denied. Bryza, as a deputy advisor to the president and secretary of state on Caspian-Basin energy policy and, later, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, played a key role in pushing forward an Azerbaijan-Europe energy corridor that bypasses Russia.
To many anti-Bryza-ites, the Turcas Petrol board post will only appear confirmation that the career diplomat truly was one of Baku’s best buddBut some opponents of the Azerbaijani government have another beef. They complain that the 48-year-old Bryza’s spot on the Turcas Petrol board is additional proof that Washington is primarily interested in Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon riches, but could care less about the massive human rights violations in the country.
One UK-based opposition activist told The Huffington Post that the current proposed US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar, a former special Eurasian energy envoy, just underlines how “oil-soaked” relations between the two countries actually are.
Morningstar has yet to secure the Senate’s approval, but, if something goes awry, it looks like the region’s oil and gas sector is hiring.