House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a congressional delegation to Armenia, from where she slammed on Sunday Azerbaijan’s “illegal” attacks on the country.
Pelosi’s visit came after clashes erupted on the Azeri-Armenian border in the heaviest fighting in the region since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. A ceasefire has held since Wednesday, but over 200 troops were killed in the flare-up.
Armenia said the fighting was started by massive Azeri shelling, while Azerbaijan claims it was responding to attacks on the border. Pelosi said it was clear that Azerbaijan was the aggressor, saying the fighting “was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that.”
“We strongly condemn those attacks,” Pelosi said. Her comments broke from the line that has been coming out of the Biden administration. Historically, the US has leaned more toward supporting the Azeri side, and Azerbaijan received a significant boost in US military aid in recent years. But the Biden administration has been taking a neutral approach to the conflict, at least publicly.
Pelosi’s comments in Armenia drew a scathing response from Azerbaijan. “The unsubstantiated and unfair accusations leveled by Pelosi against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” the Azeri Foreign Ministry said. “This is a serious blow to the efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Armenia is a treaty ally of Russia under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and appealed to Moscow for help after the recent fighting. Russia said it would dispatch a monitoring mission to Armenia, and some Armenian officials were not happy with Moscow’s response, which Pelosi said she found “interesting.”
“It is interesting that they were disappointed they got fact finders and not protection from that relationship and we’ll see what happens next,” Pelosi said.
As speaker of the House, Pelosi is the highest-level US official to visit Armenia since it became an independent state in 1991. The district she represents is home to a large number of Armenian-Americans and the visit came ahead of the midterm elections.
Pelosi was joined by two House members of Armenian descent, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA). Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was also part of the delegation.