Pelosi said the trip was planned before deadly clashes broke out on Sept. 12 along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border near the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in a flare-up of a decades-long conflict, as Azerbaijan may have tried to capitalize on Russia’s preoccupation with the invasion of Ukraine. Armenia is a close ally of Russia, while Azerbaijan is on par with Turkey.
Military officials in Azerbaijan acknowledged the attacks but accused Armenia of a “large-scale provocation”, planting mines at border facilities and shelling Azerbaijani positions earlier on Monday. Armenia called these accusations “an absolute lie” and accused Baku of the renewed hostilities.
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At a joint press conference Sunday with Armenian National Assembly president Alen Simonyan, Pelosi said it was clear that the attacks were initiated by Azerbaijan and must stop, and that the United States must use its influence and leverage to build support for Armenia. to show.
“The immediate response from the United States was to end the violence and conclude a ceasefire,” Pelosi said. “Our delegation was very outspoken and said that this was initiated by Azerbaijanis and that there must be recognition for this and how it will stop.”
Pelosi said President Biden was a strong supporter of Armenia and pledged that the two countries would “work together on what the next steps might be” to deal with escalating violence.
“Democracy in Armenia is a value to the world, a joy to the world,” Pelosi said. “However, we must increase the problem… What does security in Armenia mean for regional and global security? What does democracy in Armenia mean to end the struggle between democracy and autocracy that is going on in the world right now? In both cases it means a lot.”
Pelosi’s office said she is the most senior US official to visit Armenia since the country’s 1991 independence from the former Soviet Union.
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Other members of the US delegation include Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., (DN.J.) Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.), who is of Armenian descent, and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), of Armenian Assyrian descent.
The period leading up to the visit was marked by days of fierce fighting representing the largest outbreak of hostilities since a full-scale war in 2020 in which Azerbaijan recaptured areas that Armenia had occupied for decades. The six-week war ended with a military victory for Azerbaijan and a fragile Moscow-backed ceasefire, with Armenia surrendering large swaths of territory.
The South Caucasus region has long been a source of diplomatic sensitivities for the United States. But after lobbying by members of Congress and Armenian Americans, Biden formally recognized a massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century as genocide, a term the United States had long avoided for fear of losing its relationship with Armenians. to harm Turkey. Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a campaign of forced marches and massacres during World War I.
Pelosi invoked those deaths in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. “It is the moral duty of all to never forget: an obligation that has become increasingly urgent as atrocities are committed around the world, including by Russia against Ukraine,” Pelosi said in a statement ahead of her trip.
Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.