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Nancy Pelosi visits Armenia as ceasefire holds in Azerbaijan

The visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to Yerevan comes days after deadly border fighting erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Armenia, where a ceasefire has been in place after fighting broke out with neighboring Azerbaijan that killed hundreds of soldiers from both sides.

Pelosi arrived in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Saturday.

She is the highest-ranking US official to visit Armenia since the impoverished country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The United States Embassy said the speaker’s visit will include a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Pelosi told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the trip was “everything about human rights and respect for the dignity and worth of every human being.”

Other US lawmakers accompanying Pelosi include Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressmen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo.

Armenia’s spokesman Alen Simonyan told journalists that Pelosi’s three-day visit “will play a major role in ensuring our security.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan.

The 2020 war claimed the lives of more than 6,500 soldiers on both sides and ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Under that deal, Armenia ceded parts of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow dispatched about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Russia is a military ally of Armenia, which also seeks friendly relations with Azerbaijan.

The worst clashes since the 2020 conflict erupted on Tuesday, with Baku and Yerevan blaming 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 soldiers were killed in the fighting, while Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it lost 77.

Hostilities ended on Thursday with mediation from the “international community,” officials in Yerevan said.

Russia has embraced the ceasefire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Friday that recent clashes have been “localized” under Moscow’s “influence”. Asked if Russia has 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.”

However, the US denies Russia’s claims.

A US official told Reuters at the time of the ceasefire that Washington “sees no evidence that Russian efforts have contributed positively to securing the recent ceasefire.”

And in a sign of possible challenges, Simonyan, the Armenian spokesman, last week expressed dissatisfaction with a Russian-led military coalition’s response to Yerevan’s request for help, Interfax news agency reported.

Armenia has asked the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to intervene, but so far it has only deployed an investigation team to the region.

“Of course we are very dissatisfied. The expectations we had were not justified,” Simonyan told national television, comparing the CSTO to a pistol that doesn’t fire bullets, Interfax said.

Noting that Armenia also has a mutual assistance agreement with Russia, he said: “We expect more concrete steps from our Russian partners, not just declarations or half-words.”

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