House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Armenia with Reps. Speier, Eshoo for high-level talks

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Sunday, September 18, 2022
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Armenia for high-level talks
Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Armenia, leading a delegation for three days of high-level talks which includes a meeting with Armenian prime minister

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Armenia on Saturday, leading a U.S. Congressional delegation for three days of high-level talks, which includes a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Joining her are two Bay Area democratic congresswomen, Representative Jackie Speier and Representative Anna Ehsoo, both of whom are of Armenian descent. Also part of the delegation is Frank Pallone, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. All three are also members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

According to a statement put out by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, the delegation will meet with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Alen Simonyan, and other senior Armenian officials, "to discuss U.S.-Armenian relations and the current security situation."

The trip was a big talking point for many Armenian-Americans who came out for the 65th Annual Armenian Food Festival in San Francisco, the largest Armenian festival in the Bay Area. Some of the proceeds benefit the Saint Gregory Armenian Church and KZV Armenian School.

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"It's just us getting together, all of the friends, you know. Cook food, serve everybody. It's fun!" explains Krikor Ohanessian, who was part of a food booth making wraps.

Among the crowd was Roxanne Makasdjian. She is with the San Francisco Chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America. They met with Congresswoman Speier before the trip.

"It was heartening to know that even in her last months as congresswoman, (Speier) is going to push as hard as she possibly can do for the safety and security of Armenia," says Makasdjian.

In a statement, Pelosi says, "Our Congressional delegation's visit to Armenia is a powerful symbol of the United States' firm commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Armenia, and a stable and secure Caucasus region."

But just like Pelosi's controversial trip to Taiwan last month, Lisette Poole, Profession of Journalism at Cal State East Bay, says the U.S. is once again flexing its diplomatic muscle by backing up its recognition of the Armenian genocide, and by upholding human rights against what she refers to as a growing wave of fascism in region where Russia has played a big role following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

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"The United States is setting the stage to maybe replace Russia," says Poole. "So, they are championing democratic forces versus fascists forces, which is what President Biden has been trying very hard to focus on."

"The United States is saying, we are putting our forces, our diplomatic forces, where we have supported the notion of human rights. We are supporting democratic forces, we going to step up to that, to make the world aware that we are going to do it all the time, under this administration," she adds.

Pelosi says they are also calling for "a lasting settlement" to the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh.

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Earlier this week, there were deadly clashes along the border between the two ex-Soviet republics, which both blame the other for the renewed fighting, the deadliest since a six-week war in 2020 left thousands dead. Russia helped broker a cease-fire that went into effect on Wednesday.

Makasdjian says this year's festival was also most canceled because of the fighting.

The Pelosi delegation made no mention of plans to meet with Azeri officials.

"I really appreciate that Nancy Pelosi and all the representative who are in Armenia now, are defending those values which will keep our identity.," says Father Smpad Saboundjian with the Saint Gregory Armenian Church.

Speaker Pelosi is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Armenia since it gained independence in 1991.