U.S. appoints seasoned diplomat as next Karabakh envoy

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Tuesday September 08, 2009

Amb. Robert Bradtke being interviewed about Kosovo's independence declaration in 2008. RFE/RL

Washington - Ambassador Robert Bradtke will serve as the U.S. co-chair of the international mediation group tasked with managing the Karabakh peace process, the State Department reported on September 7. The group, known as the OSCE Minsk Group, is co-chaired by Russia and France as well as the United States.

The State Department announcement reiterated the commitment of the Obama administration and Secretary Hillary Clinton "to doing everything possible" to bring about a "peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." The newly appointed envoy is due to make "his first trip to the region in the coming weeks."

The appointment of Ambassador Bradtke is part of the larger transition from the Bush foreign policy team to the Obama team. It also marks a return to the past State Department approach, where the Karabakh issue was assigned to a senior diplomat as that diplomat's primary responsibility, rather than by the deputy assistant secretary in charge of regional affairs, as has been the case since 2004.

Mr. Bradtke is the ninth diplomat to serve as U.S. envoy for the Karabakh talks. Prior to this appointment, he served as ambassador to Croatia (2006-9) and before that as deputy assistant secretary of state dealing with Balkan and European security issues (2001-6).

A 36-year veteran of the Foreign Service, Mr. Bradtke worked at U.S. missions to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. He was also executive assistant to Secretary of State Warren Christopher (1994-96) and executive secretary for President Bill Clinton's National Security Council (1999-2001).

As a congressional fellow in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mr. Bradtke worked for the offices of then-Senator Charles Mathias (R.-Md.) and Rep. Dick Cheney (R.-Wyo.), who went on to become vice president of the United States.

A native of Chicago, the new envoy is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and di graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University and University of Virginia.

According to media reports, for the past several months the outgoing U.S. envoy for Karabakh, Matt Bryza has been under consideration for an assignment as the next U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. But Mr. Bryza has also been a target of criticism over his allegedly close personal ties to Georgian and Azerbaijani leaders.

In an August 20 letter to Secretary Clinton, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) charged Mr. Bryza with anti-Armenian bias.

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