YEREVAN — The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, accused Azerbaijan of launching “illegal and deadly attacks on the Armenian territory and an assault on the sovereignty (and) border of Armenia.” as she visited Yerevan on Sunday just days after border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
“As you saw, the immediate response from the United States was to stop the violence and to have a ceasefire,” Pelosi said at a press briefing after talks with Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan. “We, our delegation, have been very outspoken in saying that this was initiated by the Azeris and that there has to be recognition of that.”
“We in our delegation and on behalf of [the U.S.] Congress strongly condemn those attacks, which threaten prospects for a much-needed peace agreement,” Pelosi said
“We continue to watch the situation closely and we continue to support a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement to all issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” she told reporters.
Pelosi also effectively blamed Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally, for the fighting that broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border late on September 12 and left more than 200 soldiers from both sides dead.
“I mentioned in the meeting earlier that for a long time, for decades, in the Congress and in the bipartisan way we have tried to hold Turkey as well as Azerbaijan responsible for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” she said.
Speaking at the joint news conference with Pelosi, Simonyan said that the fighting was brought to a halt late on September 14 thanks to U.S. mediation.
Pelosi reaffirmed the United States commitment to “advancing security, economic development and democratic institutions in Armenia”.
Pelosi pledged to continue supporting democratization reforms in Armenia, saying that “democracy in Armenia is a joy to the world” and “Armenian democracy and sovereignty is a priority.”
“On the defense side, we are listening to what the needs are, rather than coming here and saying this is what we are prepared to do,” explained the House speaker.
“So this is a family visit for us,” said Pelosi. She noted that she planned the trip “before the assault on the border of Armenia took place.”
In addition, Pelosi pledged further support for “advancing security, economic development, and democratic institutions in Armenia and in the region.”
Turning to development, Pelosi raised the possibility Armenia could again start receiving assistance from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency.
In 2006, Armenia was one of the first countries in the world to sign up for MCC assistance, but the agency withdrew its support for Armenia in 2008 following deadly post-election violence that year in Yerevan.
Representative Frank Pallone, one of the three pro-Armenian U.S. lawmakers accompanying Pelosi on the trip, stressed that the congressional delegation is “not suggesting anything about” Armenia’s geopolitical orientation.
“We’re going to work to see what can be done by the United States to help with Armenia’s security without reference to Russia or the Russian [security] arrangement,” said the New Jersey Democrat.
In Simonyan’s words, the Armenian government would welcome “meaningful assistance” from the United States “in all possible directions.” He did not elaborate.
Echoing Pelosi’s remarks, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said, “We will continue to support the integrity of the democracy of Armenia and the borders and resist any effort to have those borders changed.”
Speier also noted that “the House of Representatives has already introduced a resolution, co-authored by all of us here, that will say that we condemn the actions by Azerbaijan, that they must cease and desist, and I’m hopeful that we will take that resolution up soon.”
The resolution also calls “for all assistance to Azerbaijan to be immediately ceased pursuant to” Section 907, a piece of legislation that limits most U.S. aid to the Azerbaijani government.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) added that Washington will continue funding demining efforts in the region.