First published in the Sept. 17 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Calls to cut off sales of military equipment to Azerbaijan are beginning to come in from additional prominent elected officials after the nation launched artillery barrages and made incursions directly into Armenia this week.
Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to make a diplomatic visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan this weekend in response to the attacks, which have killed at least 135 Armenian soldiers, according to the nation’s defense minister. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in a ceasefire agreement since Wednesday, after around two days of fighting that began with shelling and missile launches into Armenian towns and villages.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff — one of Washington’s biggest Armenia advocates — introduced a resolution Wednesday calling on the Biden administration to cut off military aid to the Azerbaijan administration in Baku. Schiff’s resolution took aim at the fact that the State Department in June waived a requirement for Azerbaijan to demonstrate de-escalation with Armenian and the breakaway Artsakh Republic as a condition for receiving the aid.
Tensions remain high between the two nations after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, in which Azerbaijani forces launched an offensive to reassert control over Artsakh, which seceded and defended itself in a previous war that ended in 1994. A ceasefire brokered by Russia in 2020 yielded some territorial gains for Azerbaijan, while ostensibly preserving autonomy for what remained of Artsakh.
This week’s attacks represent a significant escalation, as Azerbaijan attacked and crossed into Armenia proper. (Artsakh is not recognized by any U.N. member states, including Armenia.) Azerbaijan in recent weeks also has repeatedly violated the ceasefire and seized additional Artsakh territory in spite of the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
Schiff, a Burbank Democrat who represents Glendale, called the incursion an “egregious violation of the ceasefire and direct attack on Armenia’s sovereignty” on Twitter this week.
“The U.S. must halt all assistance to Azerbaijan — immediately and permanently,” he wrote.
Dozens of House members joined Schiff in co-sponsoring and otherwise publicly endorsing the resolution, including many prominent Armenia supporters such as Grace Napolitano, Brad Sherman and Frank Pallone.
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, who thanks to redistricting will represent La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge upon her likely reelection in November, also joined in condemning the attacks.
“The recent Azerbaijani artillery strikes in southern Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh are unconscionable. Azerbaijan must respect the ceasefire and end this violence now,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “I’m calling for an immediate end to all military aid to Azerbaijan.”
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who has spent her entire political life here, said she was “deeply troubled” by the attacks this week.
“Azerbaijan must refrain from further violence and respect the ceasefire it agreed to in 2020,” she tweeted. “The U.S. must end all military aid to Azerbaijan. I stand in solidarity with the Armenian people.”
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, whose office is in Glendale, also showcased his continuing support for Armenia and Artsakh. He has prominently made multiple official visits to Artsakh, most recently in the wake of the 2020 war.
“My heart continues to break for the proud Armenian people living in peace in Artsakh after the war,” he tweeted this week, later adding, “Attacks on a sovereign nation are unacceptable — U.S. financial support of the Azeris must stop.”
The Armenian government in Yerevan this week invoked the mutual defense clause it has with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, under a pact called the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The organization plans to send a fact-finding mission to the region next week, according to the media outlet Eurasianet. Commentators have observed that Azerbaijan’s renewed aggression comes when Russia’s military stature has been significantly exposed by a faltering invasion of Ukraine.
Pelosi’s visit, which she plans to make after wrapping up her stop in Berlin for the G-7 Speakers’ Summit, would be her second prominent show of support to a democratic nation under threat of an autocratic neighbor this summer. In response to China’s posturing toward Taiwan, Pelosi and other lawmakers embarked on a political visit to Taipei.
Pelosi will make the Yerevan trip with fellow Bay Area representative Jackie Speier, whose mother was Armenian and lost many extended relatives in the Armenian genocide.