WASHINGTON , DC – This week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) approved President Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassador to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Richard M. Mills, Jr. and Robert F. Cekuta, respectively. The SFRC approved a slew of nominations by voice vote during a closed-door meeting in the Capitol.

The confirmation of the two nominees comes at a crucial time as increased tensions along the Line of Contact (LOC) between Nagorno Karabakh (NK) and Azerbaijan have claimed dozens of lives this year. The latest example of Azerbaijan aggression occurred on November 12th, when an Azerbaijani military unit stationed near the LOC shot down an unarmed NK army helicopter killing all three servicemen aboard.

A career diplomat, Richard M. Mills, Jr., has held numerous diplomatic positions. Currently, he is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.

He also has diplomatic experience with Armenia. Early in his career, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he was the desk officer at the State Department for the newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Mills has also held positions in Malta, Paris, St. Petersburg and Dublin, among others.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Mills holds a J.D. from the University Of Texas School of Law, as well as an M.A. in International Security Affairs from the National Defense University.

Robert F. Cekuta is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the Energy Resources Bureau. Prior to this, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Sanctions, and Commodities in the State Department’s Bureau for Energy and Business Affairs. Previous overseas assignments have included stints in Tokyo and Berlin. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the National War College.

With the committee’s approval, their nominations move to the Senate floor for a vote, which is expected sometime next week. Senate confirmation of a number of President Obama’s nominees including Mills and Cekuta are likely before Congress adjourns for the year.

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