Don't write off Azerbaijan just yet
November 14th, 2013
10:41 AM ET

Don't write off Azerbaijan just yet

By Matthew Bryza, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Matthew Bryza is a former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and is now director of the International Center for Defense and Security in Estonia and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Patriciu Eurasia Center. The views expressed are his own.

When a Western ally holds a presidential election that falls short of international standards, should we write it off? Or should we take a sober look at steps we can help the country take to meet our expectations?

That’s the question raised by the recent presidential election in Azerbaijan, an ancient civilization undergoing breakneck modernization just 22 years after its independence from the Soviet Union.

Granted, President Ilham Aliyev faced no real competition for a third term and election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were particularly sharp in their criticism of the electoral process. Making matters worse, the Central Election Commission appeared to announce results before voting began when a smartphone app developer allegedly tested its election software with false results.

But this is only part of the story. President Aliyev is genuinely popular. Two years ago, when I served as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, independent polls reported Aliyev's approval rating at between 83 percent and 86 percent. These numbers, perhaps unimaginable for a Western political leader, reflect the support he enjoys for delivering what Azerbaijani citizens crave most: stability.

Azerbaijan nearly collapsed in the early 1990s: the country was gripped by poverty and had just suffered a humiliating military defeat by Armenia in Azerbaijan’s region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1993, a democratically elected president resigned and voluntarily handed the job to Azerbaijan's Soviet-era leader and the current president’s father, Heydar Aliyev. This transition is viewed in Azerbaijan as a moment of national salvation, even by many oppositionists. Azerbaijanis recognize that the elder Aliyev's bold decisions to defy Moscow and connect Azerbaijan's oil and gas fields to the West were critical to securing the country’s independence and economic growth.

Aliyev has built on that success. GNP has tripled since 2006, while poverty has dropped from 49 percent to just over 6 percent; reformist economic policies have helped catalyze the growth of Azerbaijan’s non-energy sectors. Still, even as the economy grows, many younger Azerbaijanis aren’t satisfied with a monopolistic system they see as limiting opportunity and social justice. Facebook activists and journalists who call for the government's demise are often met with confrontation.

Corruption also persists. Yes, the cliché says, “a fish rots from the head.” But, in reality, rot spreads through the entire fish all at once. While Western analysts have documented elite corruption, they have focused little on how corruption permeates Azerbaijan’s grassroots.  Corruption in the education system is particularly debilitating. Students are compelled to pay for grades; those who can afford it resort to private tutors for real learning. As a result, Azerbaijan suffers shortages of qualified doctors and other professionals, while young Azerbaijanis learn the wrong ethical lessons: I will never forget the high school senior who told me that her parents demanded she obtain the same “right” as her peers to cheat on her graduation examination.

Fortunately, a reformist wind may be blowing. Last spring, the legendarily corrupt minister of education was replaced by a young reformer. Other positive changes are underway as well: The publication of fees for expedited services and the advance of electronic government have eliminated many under-the-table payments. Prominent businesspeople recently told me they’re suffering fewer shakedowns by customs and tax authorities, while two of the largest holding companies are elevating their business practices to prepare for future initial public offerings.

The West has a significant strategic interest in supporting Azerbaijan’s reform efforts.

On security, less than 24 hours after the September 11 attacks, Azerbaijan offered U.S. military aircraft unlimited over-flights, and subsequently emerged as a crucial resupply corridor for one-third of the non-lethal supplies for coalition forces in Afghanistan. Cooperation on counterterrorism has also been exceptional, thwarting attacks to save many American lives, including my own.

Azerbaijan is also an important energy partner, currently supplying nearly 700,000 barrels per day of oil to European and global markets, including 40 percent of Israel's consumption. Within five years, an international consortium will begin delivering natural gas from Azerbaijan to Greece, Albania and Italy, diversifying the European Union’s natural gas supplies away from Russia.

Thinking strategically about Azerbaijan doesn’t mean sacrificing Western values. Struggling reformers in Iran can look for inspiration to neighboring Azerbaijan, also a Shiite-majority country but one in which a 1,400 year-old Jewish community enjoys strong state support and where women gained the vote a year earlier than their American sisters. The United States and its European allies would be wise not to write off Azerbaijan, and instead pursue the full range of interests – and values – they share with this small, but strategically significant country.

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Topics: Central Asia

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Eldaniz Yusibov

    This isn't helpful, Mr Bryza. No one has suggested that the West "write off" Azerbaijan because of electoral fraud; quite the opposite, in fact. We are calling for an end to policies of wilful blindness towards human rights violations in Azerbaijan, and for immediate, concrete action to start holding the government accountable for its international human rights obligations.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • Matthew Bryza

      Dear Mr. Yusubov,

      Thank you for your response to my article.

      I suppose one's assessment of whether my article is helpful depends on one's agenda.

      My agenda is to help keep the U.S. Government and its allies focused on strategic interests that I fear may be overlooked. Contrary to what you note in your message, many people in Washington and European capitals are indeed arguing that the West should write off Azerbaijan. Had that not been the case, I would not have taken the time to write the piece.

      During my time as U..S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, there was no issue on which I spent more time than promoting democratic evolution and respect for human rights. I in fact focused so much on these issues while overseeing U..S foreign policy toward the region from Greece to Central Asia that some of my Washington-based detractors attacked me for supposedly being a Neo-Conservatie who "blindly pushed for democracy."

      Sincerely,
      Matthew Bryza

      November 17, 2013 at 9:01 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Azerbaijan is the venue of Russian and Western regional geo-strategic interests and the ruling elite walks a tightrope in between. That means the West turns a blind eye to Aliyev's authoritarian regime which suppresses opposition. The two-term presidential limit was abolished in 2009, so he could stay in power indefinitely.
        Azerbaijan was in the media spotlight in June 2007 when Vladimir Putin offered the US the use of the Gabala radar station for missile defence as an alternative to using bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Is the offer off the table, Mr. Bryza?

        November 17, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • Ed

        Many people in Washington and Brussel are willing to write off Azerbaijan, because they don't want their names to be associated with a bloody dictator of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has more political prisoners than China or North Korea. A day doesn't pass without the genocidal regime of Baku not claiming to start a war with Armenia. People in Washington and Brussel don't want to work with a bloody dictator who openly declares "Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world". Amnesty International, The Human Rights Watch, The State Department, ...they all have released reports about human right abuses in Azerbaijan.

        November 18, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  2. Kend qizi

    Shame on you, Matthew Bryza. You know very well that there is a difference between the Aliyev clan's absurd corruption and the grassroots corruption in Azeri schools and the army. I lived in Azerbaijan just as long as you, and spoke with many more average citizens than you ever did. There is absolutely a difference between the kleptocrats at the top and a parent paying a bribe to keep their son from being sent to the front line of the NK war or to help their daughter pass a class (which she wouldn't pass without the bribe, no matter how smart or hardworking she is). Cutting that corruption at the top will erase the impetus for corruption at the bottom.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Aris

      How did the did Azerbaijan become an ancient civilization, in history there has never been a country called Azerbaijan, is it a post soviet state. Everyone who knows any better, knows that Mathew Bryza has been bought by Azeri money. This is a fact.

      November 17, 2013 at 10:00 am | Reply
      • Vick

        That's the way aliyev paid him to write it.

        November 17, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Ulviya

        For reference, the word Azerbaijan is first mentioned in the Persian sources relating to the III century. As for "corruption", I believe that if Mr. Bryza had written about the "Great Armenia from sea to sea" you would not have accused him of venality... It's no good when people put labels on all those whose opinion they do not agree with.

        November 20, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  3. Matin

    "These numbers, perhaps unimaginable for a Western political leader, reflect the support he enjoys for delivering what Azerbaijani citizens crave most: stability."
    Mr. Bryza, you sounded like one of the Azeri pro-governmental papers which repeat this "Aliev and Aliev brought stability to this country" mantra from one issue to another. Your cheerleading for I. Aliev opinion piece belongs to the first page of "Azerbaijan" rather than CNN.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
  4. AZE1918

    Excellent thoughtful piece by Ambassador Bryza! Azerbaijan is one the rare countries in the former Soviet Union area to demonstrate in deeds its strong partnership with the West and the US, despite a complicated geography and constantly challenging neighborhood. Already independent for 2 decades Azerbaijan still needs firm and continuous support of its partners to preserve and strengthen the historical independence. As for reported shortcomings in political system, they’re progressively addressed through gradual transformation of the country, society and economy and no one, especially those who’re out of touch with the Azerbaijani society and people, should exaggerate the scale of existing problems. For the utmost majority of Azerbaijanis, who continue to live and work in the country, the stability, prosperity and predictable future are the notions and objectives that they yearn and care for the most. Underlying understanding is that only stable, strong and united Azerbaijan would be in a position to return back territories occupied by neighboring Armenia and provide security and decent life to its people.

    November 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  5. Gasim Gasimov

    Ilham Aliyev is really popular, and please have no doubts. There are some people who just want to come to power, so they are saying anything to blame Ilham and they are usually go to Europe to complain. Europe is very good to believe idiots and make a big things from everything, like that election result app. What happened ? nothing, just app gave some numbers before elections, were they correct? No. Could it be hackers act? Yes. who is responsible for apps? may be nobody

    November 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  6. Zaur Baghirov

    Well written Mr.Bryza, obviously you support Aliyev so do I. Jealous and full of envy people is majority they will never stop criticizing. There is no perfect society but there are few places in the world where you see positive changes which you can notice in Azerbaijan. By 2020 plenty of people in the world will be aiming to get a job in Azerbaijan as what is happening now in Arab Gulf countries. People, stay positive.

    November 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  7. Elkhan

    Overall, good article by Matthew Bryza, who has first hand experience working in and with Azerbaijan.

    It is not the reaction of the US to Azerbaijan elections per se that have created confusion and uncertainty for all US allies, but the contrast with the reaction to similar elections in some other countries that are much less democratic and are hardly US friends, namely, Russia and Iran.

    The State Department reaction to those were much more friendly and congratulatory. So, if the democracy is so important, why to have the dual standards and, even worse, why to treat your friends worse?

    Diplomacy has to be planned for long term. Sometimes it takes decades to establish reputation, build up alliances etc. and all of these can be ruined in a matter of days. So, one can say that Obama administration could be wasting a "moral capital" built up for very long time by those before him and leaving a burden for those that will follow him, as many other US allies are also puzzled by unpredictable and unexplainable foreign policy of the United States.

    And one thing the US has to learn asap is a simple lesson that you need to treat your friends better than your enemies and always have a bigger picture in mind when dealing with partners.

    November 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Reply
  8. Leyla Aslanova

    In a public debate criticism will always prevail and no one ever will consider the positive changes, they will concentrate more on externalities. However, looking back at those years of independence and statistics that you pointed out it is important to understand that Azerbaijan is still on the path of development and it will get better. It has reduced poverty and it is developing its non oil sector as well. But the change in Azerbaijan also should happen from individuals, every citizen has to contribute to its country, even with little steps. That's what it takes for policies to work, it takes public effort, not the whining. It takes young professionals, Western educated work force etc. Thank you Mr. Bryza for sharing your opinion, I do agree that Azerbaijan comparing to other post soviet countries is on the right track. It needs to keep developing on its way to a strong democracy run by people.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Reply
  9. Azad

    Mr. Bryza is on the Aliyev regime's payroll. Take this for a fact.

    November 15, 2013 at 1:16 am | Reply
    • gobr8

      So are the above commentators. What about the Dubai mansions owned by his pre-teen son? Azerbaijan has almost no SMEs – indeed most Azeris have to move north to Russia to find work.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
  10. Karim

    Azad, you say: "Mr. Bryza is on the Aliyev regime's payroll. Take this for a fact."

    A fact? According to whom? You? I know, I know everything that you believe or think, merely by virtue of you being the person who believes and thanks it, becomes a fact. And why not? Aren't you very special indeed? Now, I disagree with 90% of Mathew Bryza says above. But to say what you say ... show a proof or don't make such strong accusations.

    November 15, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply
  11. Azad

    Mr Bryza must know that in any country stability comes with legitimacy of power, which is not the case in Azerbaijan.

    November 15, 2013 at 4:45 am | Reply
  12. Artin

    Mathew Bryza, since July 2012, has been on the board of Turcas Petrol company. Turcas Petrol Company is partly controlled by the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Source: News.az. Article reference: http://www.news.az/articles/61905. Mr. Bryza is just protecting his job. Nothing wrong with that. It is noble. It is American.

    November 15, 2013 at 10:06 am | Reply
    • Matthew Bryza

      The news.az story is simply wrong. First of all, I am a board member of Turcas, not an employee. Second, Turcas is publicly traded on the Istanbul stock exchange. and thus, is not "partially controlled" by any other company or anyone other than its shareholders and managers. Turcas does have a joint venture with SOCAR to build Turkeys second refinery, which was finalized long before I joined Turcas's board. Turcas also has joint ventures with Shell (e.g., Turkey's largest network of gasoline stations) and RWE (e.g., a gas-fired power plant). For more information, see http://www.turcas.com.tr. My work with Turcas focuses on two areas: developing a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey - hopefully in conjunction with a natural gas terminal on Cyprus - and participation in Turcas's corporate governance committee.

      November 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
      • Elkhan

        I get an impression that they just might not get the difference between an employee and a board member.

        November 16, 2013 at 12:56 am |
  13. Artin

    ...Just in case it is pulled...

    ******** Begin Article ********

    http://www.news.az/articles/61905

    Thu 07 June 2012 12:43 GMT | 17:43 Local Time

    Former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza has been appointed member of Board of Turcas Petrol company.

    Board chairman of the company Erdal Aksoy said that 3 new members were appointed to the board. One of them is Matthew Bryza: ‘One of our members will be former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza. We believe he will contribute to realization of new projects in the near regions’.

    Aksoy noted that the main goals of the company by 2015 – investments in local and alternative energy, creation of energy bourse, realization of productive energy projects with the neighboring countries, APA reports.

    Note that, Turcas Petrol and SOCAR are the founders of Petkim company. SOCAR has recently bought the shares of Turcas company.

    ******** End Article ********

    November 15, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply
  14. Ali

    I really think he may not have written most of this commentary:) it reads like government lobbyist, dressed in Azeri oil- holding US Passport:((( There should be thorough vetting process for choosing Ambassadors:)

    November 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  15. Karim

    Ali, or should I rather say, Hachik? Clearly, you are signing the tune of the Armenian lobbyists who ruined the career of a dedicated US Foreign Service Professional, with the help of corrupt Senator Menendez, whom Washington Post called Senator Armenia. And your comment is what a typical Armenian reader writes under such articles where Azerbaijan strategic worth is highlighted to the American audience, which is: rather than disputing the facts and considerations presented, you resort to ad hominem. You know why? Because you know that the points are indisputable. So you have no choice but descend into ad hominem. What, are you going to somehow present your motherland Armenia as the strategic partner of the West, the same Armenia that has sold itself to Russia for some cheap gas, and sells weapons to Iran, which are used to murder US soldiers in the region?

    November 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  16. Elkhan

    So this is how the discussions go nowadays? If someone has a pro-Azerbaijani position, then he/she is on a payroll? And whoever badmouthes the country must be definitely pro-democary, pro-freedom. Why not just stay away from name calling and address specific points in the article without referring to the personalities of those that write?!

    November 16, 2013 at 12:55 am | Reply
  17. Artin

    Mr. Bryza,

    Thank you for responding to my comment.

    I hope you understand that your appointment to the board of Turcas – as innocuous as it may sound to a casual reader – can potentially cast grave doubts upon the allegiance of any member of the State Department.

    Your involvement with Turcas would have been truly innocuous had you not defended a regime which continues to behave in a manner that is contrary to several stated U.S. policies: Democracy, Press Freedom, Human Rights, and many others.

    Technicalities aside, you are a US government official. Turcas is a privately-owned foreign company. You are a board member of Turcas. Let's scratch the surface here, with all information gleaned from the publicly available Turcas and Petkim websites (the lead is taken from news.az).

    Continued...

    November 16, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
    • hazel

      It is amazing that he sees no conflict of interest in working for a project he was responsible for promoting during his time in government. Plus, he doesn't say who these "shareholders and managers" are – perhaps they work for the the Azerbaijani regime.

      How could a man who left a woman in a coma 16 years ago and slipped past the legal consequences because of diplomatic immunity manage to bring his career this far?

      November 16, 2013 at 11:48 am | Reply
      • Matthew Bryza

        Dear Hazel,

        Alas, you are deeply mistaken. I am not promoting any project for which I was responsible as a U.S. official. The Israel-Turkey pipeline on which I am working is a brand new idea. The first public presentation ever made on the proposal was by me last September at a conference in Paphos, Cyprus. My work was on a totally different set of energy issues, namely, the pipeline network connecting the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Greece, which is now expanding into the Southern Corridor that is strongly supported by the European Union. Turcas has no role in this second set of pipelines.

        As for the "woman in a coma" reference, I presume you are referring to a traffic accident in Moscow in 1997. In that incident, an drunken person was pushed into my car. I stayed with her until the Moscow police heeded my please to call an ambulance, and until the ambulance took her to a hospital. The woman was not in a coma. I had not consumed an ounce of alcohol that day. And, one month later, the Russian Foreign Minister corroborated what I wrote above and absolved me of any guilt.

        November 17, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  18. Artin

    A note to all readers – several attempts to continue my earlier posting have been ignored by CNN.com Blogs.

    November 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  19. Jennavieve

    Matthew Bryza– the disgraced, bought off, husband of a Turk, ex-ambassador to Azerbaijan? Really CNN? You're going to allow his biased "info" to be shared through CNN?

    You are aware that you are losing legitimacy as a news source, right?

    November 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  20. Jennavieve

    P.S. One name sums up how the Azerbaijani government and "nation" should be viewed: RAMIL SEFEROV.

    Need I say more? Look at a nation's heroes and you have a good idea of their values.

    November 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Reply
    • craigprophet

      Wow! This is an example where readers' comments are a lot MORE informative (and more interesting!) than the article itself.
      It's great hearing all the evil deeds and wrongfull behaviour of Aliev (and Bryza) being hung out to dry like dirty laundry.
      Mr. Bryza can run but he can't hide from the truth.
      The readers' comments are coming from a mature and well-informed public and they're writing here to put things right.
      Mr. Bryza: try, try again, but we can't be fooled and we sure won't stop calling a spade a spade.

      November 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  21. Michael D.

    Matthew Bryza:

    You're a dissapointing individual, because you are a complete sellout, willing to do the bidding of the highest bidder. You are just one of the many pathetic individuals in our government, including many former Bush AND Obama staff members, who do the bidding of dictators like loyal dogs because of the payroll.
    I have two questions for you:
    You say: "Azerbaijan, an ancient civilization". Can you please tell me a time before 1918 that Azerbaijan ever existed as a nation on any map? Please go into concrete details so you can't lie. When did Azerbaijan, "An Ancient Civilization" ever exist as a nation before 1918. It's enemy, Armenia, existed throughout several periods as an independent nation, and appears on all varieties of maps including Ancient Greece, Roman, Byzantium, Sassanid, Partihan, Russian, etc. So please answer me when did azerbaijan exist as a nation before 1918? Or does money, beyond altering human rights, alter history too?

    Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named Aliyev "Person of the Year" for his corruption. What do you have to say about this?
    Transparency International ranks Azerbaijan 139/176 in its corruption rankings
    Georgia ranks 65, Armenia ranks 105 by compassion
    Just 4 days ago, Amnesty International condemned Azerbaijan ONCE MORE for its ruthless crackdown and jailing of journalists and reporters.
    Aliyev's family members are charge of multiple industries including airline and mining. His son at the age of 11 held property in Dubai worth tens of millions of dollars
    Anyone interested in learning more should watch the video "Filthy Rich Ilham Aliyev " on youtube
    So mr Bryza please go ahead and try to explain all that
    but I know most likely you'll just get this post deleted

    -Mike

    p.s
    It must be a pathetic existence to know that you stand for nothing, exist for no reason, other than to do the bidding of some evil individual

    November 18, 2013 at 12:07 am | Reply
    • Ulviya

      Strange, you accuse another person of lying whilst tell lies yourself... The word Azerbaijan was many times mentioned in the ancient sources , and the term "Azerbaijanis" has been used since XIX century. Many historical facts and evidence testify on the ancient history of Azerbaijan. Your outstanding poet Sayat Nova also wrote his works in Azerbaijani ...
      As for the comparison of Azerbaijan and Armenia – Did Armenia exist until 1918 ? The answer is obvious . You have so "profoundly" studied Azerbaijan and so "successfully" compare Azerbaijan with Armenia, that I would like to remind you of a couple of facts . First, do not forget that Armenia is run by people with criminal records and criminal nicknames. During the "independence", the Armenian population has decreased from 3.5 million to 2 million. Why?

      November 21, 2013 at 3:56 am | Reply
  22. Ed

    Azerbaijan is a country where they burn books, imprison, torture, or/and kill people for daring to speak about the regime. Azerbaijan is a country where the results of elections is released before the actual voting takes place. Azerbaijan is a country where the head of the state openly declared "Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world". Azerbaijan is a country that bribes Olympic officials for gold medals. ...Mr. Bryza, my question is addressed to you. What do you know about 'CAVIAR DIPLOMACY'? In case you haven't heard of it, would you please google the term 'caviar diplomacy' , before answering to my question?

    November 18, 2013 at 1:10 am | Reply
    • Nigar Hasan

      What a book burning are you talking about? Can you specify an actual fact? It seems to be strange that the "democracy in Azerbaijan" mostly cared by Armenians... They obviously have forgotten that the situation in their country is far worse and terrifying ...

      November 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Reply
      • Nemesis

        Əkrəm Əylisli

        November 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  23. Socrates

    Azerbajan an ancient civilization!??! Are you kidding??! Do you even know the history of the world and the region??!!? Where and when did Azerbaijan appear in ancient maps...there is NO record of this relatively newly formed state anywhere. They claim rights to Armenian ancient land when they did not have any land only a hundred years ago!!! If not for Soviet Unition and oil, the word 'Azerbaijan' would not exist. How much did Aliev pay you to write this article??

    November 18, 2013 at 3:43 am | Reply
  24. Ron

    Mr. Bryza,

    I suppose you wouldn't want to share with the rest of the world why your tenure as the ambassador of U.S. in Azerbaijan suddenly ended. Before you were granted the position, there were the reports of your wedding being sponsored by Turkish/Azeri groups and you being offered large amount of money to serve the interests of Azerbaijan during your tenure. But what's even more disturbing is your portrayal of Azerbaijan in this blog. It is a fact that Azerbaijan has one of the poorest human rights ranking, the press freedom was ranked 162/179, while the recent presidential elections proved once again that there is virtually no freedom of speech or choice in Azerbaijan. The fact that Aliev had no "legitimate rivals" was not because no one else in Azerbaijan could match his credentials, but rather because everybody else who was seen as a rival is dying in clandestine prisons while politicans like you are trying to cast a shadow on these issues.
    In your article, you suggest that United States should not write Azerbaijan off because after 9/11 Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to supply US with troops and aid. Now, I ask you-does the fact that Azerbaijan supported US make their illegal, immoral and antidemocratic actions right? Should we just ignore universal values we so wholeheartedly preach to the rest of the world simply because Azerbaijan spared some of their petroleum dollars to assist us? Are you suggesting that we should simply accept Azerbaijan as an ally because we can benefit from them?
    Finally, you're praising a man that recently granted amnesty to a man (Ramil Safarov) who butchered another human being during NATO training only because he was of Armenian decent. You’re praising a man who has blood in his hands, a man who uses blackmail, intimidation, and fear as means to stay in power.
    What is your truth Mr. Bryza. It appears that you have none. I feel ashamed of the fact that somewhere in this world you represent America.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • Avram Cohen

      You nailed it! an we all know the stupid Israeli government sold 3.5 billion in weapons to e Azeri's, that will more than likely be used on the first Christian country Armenia! Azerbaijan didn't even exist 100 years ago!

      November 2, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  25. Artin

    As of today CNN.com Blogs is still blocking the rest of my posting that provides evidence of a very cozy relationship between the company where Mr. Bryza holds board membership and the highest-levels of the azeri government.

    All evidence has been taken from official company and azeri news sources...

    November 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  26. Jeffrey

    What an acrid environment most of you commentators have created! The situation of Azerbaijan deserves the powerful emotions present in the forum, but hateful comments do little to promote any cause. Also evident is that the petty and dogged Armenian assault on Ambassador Bryza, embodied to perfection by the poor communications of Artin, could only be the product of that respectable people's more idle and mal-intentioned sector. Clearly this piece was formulated with a policy-making and business audience in mind. Why not stick to the subject at hand? There must be coherent U.S. policy on this moderate, stable, and secular Republic in a volatile region. Is energy not pertinent to hyper-modern online forums such as this one? Will international engagement ad investment not improve the stale-mate which reigns over the southern Caucasian neighbors? I am pleased to see such a piece on Azerbaijan, where one might just as easily not exist.

    November 18, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Reply
    • Michael D.

      "Jeffrey" you're either a very uninformed individual, or just another person on a payroll of a dictator.
      If you don't know anything about the author, I suggest you do some research. This isn't a piece written with a business audience in mind. This is a piece written due to the orders of Mr. Aliyev to improve his pathetic standing in the world.

      Also, are the energy and empirical needs of the United States more important that the human rights of the people of Azerbaijan? How many countries, and how many billions of people, have to tolerate cowardly evil dictators because their rulers bend down to the needs of the United States?

      Azerbaijan has been ruled for the same family for almost 40 years straight. A single clan rules all industries. It has been called out by every human rights organization. Millions of people suffer while Aliyev collects billions. How many people have to suffer for the bloody and greedy profits of Exxon and BP?

      November 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Reply
      • Artin

        Michael D.: No need to argue with Mr. Jeffrey. Notice that he attacked the "poor communications of Artin" but would not – could not – refute the point I made: Mr. Bryza is linked directly with the highest levels of the Azeri regime, in a manner which cannot be allowed for a U.S. government official. If it's actually true as he claims that he is not getting paid for his services then he's downright gullible. Any reasoning person knows that in this type of business they use a type of currency that you or I don't have access to. BTW CNN is still not letting me continue my posting.

        November 19, 2013 at 1:40 am |
      • Avram Cohen

        Spot on!

        November 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
  27. chocodope

    Ed

    The opinion on Azerbaijan as a state of Korea or China type is really really preconceived. No logic at all. And please could you be more or less attentive while listening what the President (Ilham Aliyev) talks about during his speech? That's about his words of "all the Armenians are enemies" etc. I do kindly advise to listen to the original now.
    What about Armenia – how this Russian colony could be a threat? Ridiculous.

    November 20, 2013 at 7:05 am | Reply
  28. alleksius

    I can't recall how did some independent journalists investigation into a high-level Azeri official payment for Matthew Bryza's 2007 wedding to Turkish author Zayna Baran end. Maybe someone could remind me...

    Anyway, I don't think it is a big secret that Mr. Bryza is a mere mouthpiece for Azerbaijan's officious propaganda. And therefore not worthy to be seriously considered by anyone familiar with Caucasian and/or Euro-Asian politics.

    November 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  29. Nemesis

    How much is the fish, Mr Bryza, more accurate, how much is a caviar ?

    November 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  30. Azat

    Thanks for sharing the article and thank you ALL for the comments!

    Two things strike out.

    When an Azeri or pro Azeri person has no counter-argument against the above reviewers' comments they jump to the "easier" blame of their being "an Armenian." This is ludicrous to say the least. I am Armenian and I am not going into any details about your or other comments here. But this line of argument by Azeri/pro Azeri groups undervalues their arguments' "righteousness." Calling names, worst of all being branding other people you do not know as "Armenians," is an easy way of going around the raised questions and avoiding face-to-face substantiated argument.

    Second, Mr. Bryza's article (as well as his comments and actions soon after he was not appointed as Ambassador) is yet another proof that those opposing his appointment were dead right! Maybe Mr. Bryza is a good human being, but that's not the point. The point is that the negative vitriolic against him (which at that time might have seemed as too subjective and simply wrong) has proven right for the interests of America, as Bryza's actions and words are a witness of serving the interests of someone else! Pity, but just...

    November 21, 2013 at 2:04 am | Reply
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