US Speaker Pelosi backs Armenia over Azerbaijan border clashes
The House of Representatives Speaker said on Sunday in Yerevan that this month’s “illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenian territory” gave her visit added significance. The attacks led to border clashes in which more than 200 people were killed.
Pelosi, the most senior US political figure to visit Armenia since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, said it was clear the border fighting was triggered by Azerbaijan’s assaults.
“We strongly condemn those attacks,” she said. “This was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that.”
Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan this month appealed for military assistance from the Russian-led CSTO but his request was rejected with the alliance sending a “fact-finding mission” instead. Russia’s war in Ukraine has forced Vladimir Putin into a frantic search for military personnel.
Armenian parliamentary Speaker Alen Simonyan compared the CSTO to a jammed gun. “We are very dissatisfied, of course. We expect more tangible steps from our Russian partners,” he said.
Simonyan said US assistance was “vitally important” for Armenian independence and called the US Congress a “reliable partner”.
Russia has a military base in Armenia but approximately 1,000 of its troops have reportedly been deployed to Ukraine to bolster the botched invasion.
Putin’s disastrous Ukraine war is shaking the geopolitical balance in the Caucasus with an observer asking if Azerbaijan had been testing Moscow’s commitment to its Armenian allies.
Thomas de Waal of the Carnegie Europe think tank tweeted.“They want to test Russian resolve at a time of failure in Ukraine, see how strong the commitment in the CSTO is to defend Armenia.”
Azerbaijan claimed Pelosi had made “unsubstantiated and unfair” allegations, dealing a “serious blow” to peace talks.
Last week’s clashes were the worst fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 44-day war that started in September 2020 when 6,500 people died during fighting for the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region. The region has a largely ethnically Armenian population but is within Azerbaijan’s territory.
Pelosi said it was for Armenia to decide if it would remain a CSTO member. “It is interesting that they were disappointed they got fact-finders and not protection from that relationship and we’ll see what happens next,” said the US speaker. She is third in line for presidency, after the vice-president.
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Armenia. Picture credit: YouTube