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Turkey’s VP rebukes Pelosi for ‘biased’ remarks in Armenia

US Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Yerevan, Armenia, on September 18 Office to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia/Handout via Reuters
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Yerevan, Armenia, on September 18
  • Vice president Fuat Oktay accuses US Speaker of sabotaging diplomacy
  • Pelosi condemned ‘illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan’
  • More than 200 people have been killed in the latest border clashes

Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay has branded Nancy Pelosi’s speech on clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan “biased”, suggesting that her comments “sabotage diplomacy efforts”.

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Armenia this weekend, in an unprecedented show of American support for the country, which has been locked in conflict with its neighbour Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for more than three decades.

Speaking in the ancient city of Yerevan, Pelosi spoke of the “illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenian territory” that triggered border clashes in which more than 200 people were killed.

“We strongly condemn those attacks,” she said.

Pelosi, who angered China with a trip to Taiwan last month, said it was evident that the border fighting was triggered by Azeri assaults on Armenia and that the chronology of the conflict should be made clear.

The fighting “was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that,” the Speaker added.

Posting on Twitter on Monday, Vice President Oktay called on Washington to clarify whether her statements reflected the official US position.

Her remarks drew an unusually strong rebuke from Baku, which said she was endangering the peace in the Caucasus.

“The unsubstantiated and unfair accusations levelled by Pelosi against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“This is a serious blow to the efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the ministry said, casting the remarks as “Armenian propaganda”.

Armenia said Azerbaijan shelled at least six Armenian settlements inside the border shortly after midnight on September 13, attacking civilian and military infrastructure with drones and large calibre guns. Yerevan said it was unprovoked aggression.

Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, rejects those claims. Baku says Armenian sabotage units tried to mine Azeri positions, prompting soldiers to respond. Armenia says that narrative is Azeri disinformation.

Russia considers the Caucasus its own sphere of influence and bristles at what it casts as US meddling in the region. Moscow, though, is preoccupied by the war in Ukraine.

Russia is Armenia’s major military ally, has a military base in northern Armenia and peacekeepers along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh. President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had enough resources to mediate in the conflict. The latest fighting ended after a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

But after appeals for help, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of former Soviet republics that includes Armenia but not Azerbaijan, dispatched a monitoring mission.

Speaking alongside Pelosi on Sunday, Armenia’s Speaker Alen Simonyan said he was dissatisfied with the response, likening the CSTO to a pistol that did not shoot bullets.

The United States, Pelosi said, was listening to Armenia about what its defence needs were and said Washington wanted to support Armenia in what she cast as a global struggle between democracy and autocracy.

She pointed to Yerevan’s disappointment at the response from Russia.

“It is interesting that they were disappointed they got fact finders and not protection from that relationship and we’ll see what happens next,” she said.