International community worried over Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes
By Stefan J. Bos
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said she came to Armenia to express support for the nation. Leading a Congressional delegation, she condemned what she said were "illegal" border attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenia and pledged American support for its sovereignty.
"Our meeting again had particular importance to us because of the focus on security following the deadly and illegal attacks by Azerbaijan on the Armenian territory," she said. "We strongly condemn those attacks, [meaning] our delegation on behalf of Congress. [The attacks] threaten prospects through a much-needed peace agreement," Pelosi added.
Such a definitive apportioning of blame for the recent clashes that killed as many as 200 people goes beyond what the U.S. State Department has so far said in public.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concerns over the fighting and called for calm but did not assign blame.
Russia, which earlier condemned Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, considers the Caucasus as its sphere of influence and bristles at what it claims is U.S. meddling in the region.
Beacon of democracy
However, Pelosi cast her trip to Armenia, a sliver of land the size of the U.S. state of Maryland sandwiched between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Iran, as an attempt to strengthen support for what she views as a beacon of "democracy."
Armenia has said that this week's fighting began after several towns along the border had been shelled by neighboring Azerbaijan and that it had responded to the provocation.
Azerbaijan denied the allegations, saying its infrastructure came under attack without provocation.
Russia is a major military ally of both nations. It also has an army base in northern Armenia and peacekeepers along the contact line in the Nagorno-Karabakh region over which Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war in 2020.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had enough resources to mediate the conflict, despite focusing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and losing battles there.
The latest fighting ended after a Russian-brokered ceasefire. But with Moscow now using valuable military resources in Ukraine, there is mounting concern that Russia will be unable to maintain a sense of stability in the volatile Caucasus much longer.
Two other regional nations, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, said Sunday the death toll from their border conflict had risen to 71 people. Their comments came as a fragile ceasefire held between the two Central Asian neighbors for a second day, and their mutual ally Russia urged a de-escalation.
The former Soviet republics clashed over a border dispute on September 14-16, accusing each other of using tanks, mortars, rocket artillery, and assault drones to attack outposts and nearby settlements.