Pelosi leads congressional delegation to Armenia

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Saturday that she is leading a congressional delegation to Armenia this weekend, which her office said made her the highest-ranking US official to visit the country since its independence in 1991.

By Veronica Stracqualursi and Sarah Fortinsky, CNN

(CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Armenia this weekend, which her office said made her the highest-ranking US official to visit the country since its independence in 1991.

The trip was intended to highlight the United States' "firm commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Armenia, and a stable and secure Caucasus region," the California Democrat said in a statement Saturday.

Joining Pelosi were Democratic lawmakers she referred to on Twitter as "proud and longtime champions of Armenia": Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Jackie Speier of California, co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues; and Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, a member of the caucus. Both Speier and Eshoo are of Armenian heritage.

The visit follows deadly clashes earlier this week along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two former Soviet states have been in a decades-old dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The violence this week led to concerns that the two nations could be on the verge of reigniting their conflict, but a senior Armenian official said late Wednesday that a truce had been agreed with Azerbaijan.

Speaking at a joint news conference Sunday in Yerevan with Alen Simonyan, speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, Pelosi condemned Azerbaijan's "illegal and deadly attacks" on the Armenian border. She also expressed the United States' commitment to supporting a sovereign Armenian state.

"We strongly condemn those attacks -- we, in our delegation, on behalf of Congress -- which threatens the prospect for much-needed peace agreement," said Pelosi, who also noted that the visit had been planned before the current round of hostilities.

Pelosi said Congress would "soon" take up a resolution that would condemn "Azerbaijan's unprovoked military attack on Armenia." The resolution was introduced in Congress this past week and referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

President Joe Biden last year became the first US president to officially recognize the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I as a genocide.

Both the US House and Senate, in 2019, approved a resolution that would "commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance" of "the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923."

Turkey has maintained that the killings do not constitute genocide, saying that it was wartime and there were losses on both sides. Turkey also disputes the death toll, putting the figure closer to 300,000.

"It is the moral duty of all to never forget: an obligation that has taken on heightened urgency as atrocities are perpetrated around the globe, including by Russia against Ukraine," Pelosi said in her statement Saturday.

Earlier in the week, Pelosi attended a summit of parliamentary speakers of G7 nations in Germany, where she spoke on Friday about the "ongoing and unified response" to Russia's war against Ukraine.

She recently made another high-profile foreign trip, visiting Taiwan in August to show support for the self-ruled island -- a move that greatly angered Beijing and added strain to the US-China relationship.

In response to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, China announced sanctions on the speaker and her immediate family, suspended cooperation with the US on several issues, including climate change talks, and conducted several military drills around the island.

China's ruling Chinese Communist Party views Taiwan as part of the country's territory, despite having never controlled it, and has long vowed to "reunify" the island with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.

This story has been updated with additional reaction.

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