Nancy Pelosi says Azerbaijan waged 'illegal' war on Armenia

Both Yerevan and Baku accuse each other of provoking conflict that has killed more than 200

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would lead a delegation of Armenian-American members of Congress to the region. AP
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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that Azerbaijan bore responsibility for a round of deadly clashes between it and neighbouring Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Leading a delegation of Armenian-American members of Congress on the trip, the Democrat politician condemned Azerbaijan for the clashes that had killed over 200 people, mostly Armenian soldiers.

“We strongly condemn those attacks,” Ms Pelosi said during a speech in the country's capital, Yerevan. “This was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that.”

Ms Pelosi said 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 US, Ms Pelosi said, 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.

A senior Armenian official expressed unhappiness last week with the response of a Russian-led military alliance to Yerevan's request for help.

“We are very dissatisfied, of course. The expectations we had were not justified,” parliamentary speaker Alen Simonyan told national television.

He likened the Collective Security Treaty Organisation to a pistol that did not shoot bullets, Interfax news agency reported.

The organisation, dubbed by some Russia's “mini Nato”, comprises six former Soviet states, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. It is intended to be a peacekeeping alliance with Moscow at the helm, and a rotating presidency.

Ms Pelosi said it was interesting that Armenia was disappointed by the response from the Russian-led alliance.

Last week, she also said the visit would have a broader scope than the current crisis between the two countries, including a discussion of the early 20th century Ottoman-led genocide against the Armenian people, which Azerbaijan's ally Turkey has long refused to recognise as genocide.

“We have taken great pride in finally passing and making the law … the recognition that what happened in Armenia was a genocide over 100 years ago.”

The House speaker was referring to US President Joe Biden's decision last year to officially recognise the Armenian genocide that occurred during the First World War.

Ms Pelosi will also meet Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and other officials Yerevan, Politico first reported.

More than 200 people have died in the border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan this week. Yerevan has accused Azerbaijani troops of atrocities in the deadly fighting.

Mr Pashinyan said: “For the moment, the number of [Armenians] dead is 135.”

“Unfortunately, it is not the final figure. There are also many wounded,” he told a Cabinet meeting.

The Caucasus neighbours have fought two wars — in 2020 and in the 1990s — over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan's Armenian-populated enclave.

Yerevan and Baku have each blamed the other of provoking the clashes, which began on Tuesday. A Moscow-brokered ceasefire ended the fighting late on Wednesday night, but the situation remains tense.

Russia, a military ally of Armenia that also strives for friendly relations with Azerbaijan, said it would pressure both countries to pull their forces back to where they were before this week's conflict broke out.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: September 18, 2022, 12:49 PM