West News Wire: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, has landed in Armenia, where fighting with neighboring Azerbaijan has stopped but not before killing hundreds of soldiers on both sides.
On Saturday, Pelosi landed in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
Since the impoverished country’s separation from the Soviet Union in 1991, she is the highest-ranking US official to visit there.
According to the US Embassy, Pelosi will meet with Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, during her stay. The trip, according to Pelosi, “is all about human rights and valuing the dignity and worth of every individual,” she told reporters in Berlin on Friday.
Other US legislators accompanying Pelosi include Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo.
Armenia’s Speaker Alen Simonyan told journalists that Pelosi’s three-day visit will “play a big role in ensuring our security”.
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.
Russia is a military ally of Armenia and also strives for friendly relations with Azerbaijan.
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 said at least 135 Armenian troops were killed in the fighting, while Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said it had lost 77.
The hostilities ended on Thursday with mediation from the “international community,” according to officials in Yerevan.
Russia took credit for the truce.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Friday that the latest clashes had become “localised” under Moscow’s “influence”. When asked whether Russia had the resources to maintain its influence in the region given Moscow’s focus on its nearly seven-month conflict in Ukraine, he replied: “As you can see, there are enough.”
The US however disputes Russia’s claims.
At the time of the truce, a US official told Reuters that Washington “saw no indication that Russian efforts contributed in a good way towards establishing the most recent ceasefire.”
And in a warning of future difficulties, Simonyan, the Armenian speaker, last week expressed dissatisfaction with the way a military alliance led by Russia responded to Yerevan’s need for assistance, according to Interfax news agency.
Armenia asked the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which is governed by Moscow, to become involved, but so far it has only dispatched a fact-finding mission.
He remarked, pointing out that Russia and Armenia have an agreement on mutual assistance, “we anticipate more practical steps from our Russian friends, not simply statements or half words.”