US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia during her momentous visit to Yerevan from September 18-19.
“Armenia is of particular importance to us because—the focus on security following the illegal and deadly attacks from Azerbaijan on Armenian territory. We strongly condemn the attacks, we and our delegation, on behalf of the Congress, which threatens prospects for much needed peace,” Pelosi said during a joint press conference with Armenian National Assembly president Alen Simonyan.
In addition to explicitly blaming Azerbaijan for last week’s attacks, Pelosi said that Congress has tried to hold Turkey accountable for the ongoing Artsakh conflict.
“As the United States, which is an OSCE Minsk chair, has made long clear: there can be no military solution,” Pelosi said during the press conference with Simonyan. “I mentioned in our meeting earlier that for a long time, decades in Congress in a bipartisan way, we have tried to hold Turkey responsible as well as Azerbaijan for that conflict.”
Pelosi reiterated American support for a “negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement” to the Artsakh conflict.
The House Speaker also referenced “hate crimes against the Armenian community” across the globe and in the United States as well as Azerbaijan’s use of force against “people and holy sites” in Artsakh.
Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Republic of Armenia. The US-based newspaper Politico first announced on September 15 that Pelosi had decided to travel to Armenia in a show of support for the country following Azerbaijan’s large-scale attack between September 13-14. Pelosi confirmed the visit the following day, stating that the decision to take the trip was “rather spontaneous.”
Pelosi said during her visit that the trip had been planned prior to Azerbaijan’s attacks. “But it so happens that we come in time, in-person—strongly condemn Azerbaijan’s recent attacks on Armenia,” Pelosi said while addressing Armenian civil society leaders at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan.
Pelosi led a congressional delegation including co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) and caucus member Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
Members of the delegation referenced Armenia’s close ties with Russia and Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), alluding to the failure of the Russian-led military bloc to provide military support to Armenia following Azerbaijan’s attacks.
“We understand that Armenia is part of this security arrangement with Russia. Now, we’re not suggesting anything about that,” Pallone said during the press conference with the Armenian parliamentary speaker. “We want to do whatever we can to be more supportive of Armenia’s security, and 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 arrangement.”
“Your interrelations with other entities is up to Armenia to decide,” Pelosi said. “It is interesting that they were disappointed that they got fact-finders and not protection from that relationship. We’ll see what happens next.”
Armenia appealed to the CSTO for military support in the hours following the start of the attack, which began shortly after midnight on September 13. The CSTO announced in response that it would send a fact-finding mission to Armenia to “assess the situation” and “prepare a report” that would be presented to CSTO member states later this year. The mission, led by CSTO head Stanislav Zas, arrived in Armenia on Tuesday.
On September 15, Secretary of Armenian Security Council Armen Grigoryan announced that a ceasefire agreement had been reached “thanks to the involvement of the international community,” which Azerbaijan has not yet acknowledged. Pelosi seemed to confirm that the United States played an instrumental role in pressuring Azerbaijan to cease hostilities, when she stated during her press conference with Simonyan, “The immediate response from the United States was to stop the violence and to have a ceasefire.”
Pelosi also met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan. The House Speaker and Defense Minister discussed “a number of issues related to the cooperation of the two countries in the defense sector,” the MoD of Armenia reported, without further elaboration.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan denounced the “groundless and unfair accusations made by N. Pelosi against Azerbaijan” during her visit to Yerevan.
“N. Pelosi is known as a pro-Armenian politician, and the presence of pro-Armenian members of Congress in her delegation to Armenia is pure evidence of this,” the MoFA said in a written statement. “What N. Pelosi said during her visit to Armenia should be regarded as a statement made on the basis of Armenian propaganda.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov seemed to dismiss the impact Pelosi’s visit could have on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
“Everything that is not words, but in deeds—and not loudly, not populist, but, quietly and in a businesslike way —can contribute to the normalization of relations, can contribute to the stabilization of the situation on the border,” Peskov told reporters. “All this can be welcomed. Can such high-profile actions and statements contribute to this normalization? Let’s see. Time will tell.”
Last week was the first time in this decades-long conflict that Azerbaijan launched a large-scale attack within the internationally-recognized borders of Armenia. It was the deadliest fighting in the region since the 2020 Artsakh War.
Armenian authorities report at least 207 killed or missing persons, including three civilians, as well as 293 soldiers and seven civilians wounded and 20 soldiers captured during the two days of fighting. Azerbaijani forces targeted 36 settlements in the Armenian provinces of Gegharkunik, Vayots Dzor and Syunik, destroying 60 homes and damaging more than 130 others. The MoD of Azerbaijan reports 80 deaths, as well as 282 soldiers and two civilians wounded.
The Armenian casualties include at least four soldiers killed while in Azerbaijani captivity. Graphic footage appearing to show the brutal murder and mutilation of Armenian female soldiers has been circulating on social media. The MoD of Armenia reported that Armenian female soldiers Susanna Grigoryan, Anush Apetyan, Alisa Melkonyan and Irina Gasparyan were killed during last week’s attacks.
Armenian authorities say that Azerbaijan launched its latest attacks in order to coerce Armenia to accept its demands within the ongoing negotiation process. Those demands include a peace agreement that would recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the creation of the so-called “Zangezur corridor,” a route without passport or customs controls passing through Armenia connecting Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan. While Armenian authorities have said that they are prepared to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, they have added that any peace agreement must address the status of Artsakh and the security of its Armenian population, issues that Azerbaijan has reportedly refused to discuss.
“Having adopted the agenda of establishing peace and opening regional communications, the Republic of Armenia considers unacceptable the policy of threat and coercion conducted by Azerbaijan,” the Armenian Security Council said in a September 19 statement.
On September 16, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated the demands for a swiftly negotiated peace treaty and the “Zangezur corridor.”
“Now we need, without preconditions and artificial delays, to start the work on the draft peace treaty,” Aliyev said.