Tuesday, May 28, 2024

US house chief visits Armenia amid border clashes with Azerbaijan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Armenia, where a ceasefire has held after an outburst of fighting with neighboring Azerbaijan. The conflict has killed hundreds of troops on both sides.

She is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Armenia since the impoverished nation’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The United States Embassy announced that Pelosi’s visit will include a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Other US legislators accompanying Pelosi include Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo.

Pelosi on Sunday strongly condemned what she said were “illegal” border attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenia, using a visit to the Russian military ally to pledge American support for Armenian sovereignty.

Speaking in Yerevan, Pelosi stated her trip had particular importance following the “illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenian territory” which led to border clashes in which more than 200 people were killed.

“We strongly condemn those attacks,” Pelosi continued, noting that “this was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that”.

Pelosi stressed it was clear that the border fighting was triggered by Azeri assaults on Armenia and that the chronology of the conflict should be made clear.

The United States, Pelosi added, was listening to Armenia about what its defence needs were and said Washington wanted to help and support Armenia in what she cast as a global struggle between democracy and autocracy.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave.

The 2020 war killed more than 6,500 soldiers from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Under that deal, Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

On Tuesday, the worst clashes since the 2020 conflict erupted, with Baku and Yerevan trading blame for the “intense” shelling. Armenia accused Azerbaijan of unprovoked aggression, but officials in Baku said their military was responding to Armenian attacks.

Pashinyan announced at least 135 Armenian troops were killed in the fighting, while Azerbaijan’s defence ministry reported it had lost 77. The hostilities ended on Thursday with mediation from the “international community,” according to officials in Yerevan.

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