Pelosi said the trip had been planned before deadly clashes broke out on September 12 along the Azerbaijan-Armenian border near the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, in a flare-up of a decades-long conflict, as Azerbaijan may have been trying to take advantage of Russia’s concern about its invasion of Ukraine. Armenia is a close ally of Russia, while Azerbaijan is aligned with Turkey.
Military officials in Azerbaijan acknowledged the attacks but accused Armenia of a “large-scale provocation,” laying mines near border facilities and shelling Azerbaijani positions on Monday. Armenia called these accusations an “absolute lie” and blamed Baku for the resumption of hostilities.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Secretary Blinken welcomed the cessation of recent hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Price said in a statement. “He urged President Aliyev to adhere to the ceasefire, withdraw military forces and work to resolve all outstanding issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan through peaceful negotiations.”
At a joint news conference on Sunday with Armenian National Assembly Speaker Alen Simonyan, Pelosi said it was clear that the attacks were started by Azerbaijan and must stop, and that the United States should use its influence to show support for Azerbaijan. Armenia.
“The immediate response from the United States was to stop the violence and have a ceasefire,” Pelosi said. “Our delegation had been very outspoken, saying that this was started by Azeris and that there has to be an acknowledgment of that and how it will be stopped.”
Pelosi said that President Biden was a strong supporter of Armenia and promised that the two countries will “work together on what the next steps may be” to address the outbreak of violence.
“Democracy in Armenia is a value to the world, a joy to the world,” Pelosi said. “However, we have to broaden the topic… 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 taking place in the world now? In both cases, it means a lot.”
Pelosi’s office said she is the highest-ranking 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 Committee on Commerce and Energy, Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.), from Armenian descent, and the representative. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), of Assyrian Armenian descent.
The lead-up to the visit has been marked by days of heavy fighting that represent the largest outbreak of hostilities since a full-scale war in 2020, in which Azerbaijan recaptured territories that Armenia had held for decades. The six-week war ended with Azerbaijan’s military victory and a fragile Moscow-backed truce, in which Armenia gave up large swathes of territory.
The South Caucasus region has long been a source of diplomatic sensitivity for the United States. But after lobbying from members of Congress and Armenian Americans, Biden last year 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 damaging its relationship with Turkey. . Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a campaign of forced marches and mass murder during World War I.
Pelosi invoked those deaths in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. “It is everyone’s moral duty to never forget — an obligation that has taken on added urgency as atrocities are being perpetrated around the world, including by Russia against Ukraine,” Pelosi said in a statement before her trip.
Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.
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