SEPTEMBER 18, 2022 PRESS RELEASE
Yerevan, Armenia – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional delegation to Armenia held a press conference with Speaker Alen Simonyan of the Armenian National Assembly. Below is the full transcript:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for hosting our Congressional delegation and for your commitment to strengthening the partnership between our two countries and between our two Parliaments. Thank you for emphasizing that a very important part of our visit was to continue our communication.
It was my honor to host the Speaker in the United States Capitol earlier this year, in which we discussed issues related to advancing democracy and security in Armenia. Being awarded the Order of Honor today was a privilege to me that I treasure. That happened at the museum.
Now, it’s a great honor to be the first Speaker of the House — the highest-ranking American — to visit Armenia, to travel to Armenia, where we’re continuing our dialogue. We just had a very productive meeting, one which our dialogue showed our commitment, the commitment that the United States Congress, to advancing security, economic development, in democratic institutions in Armenia and in the region.
We discussed with pride that Congress takes in leading the way to secure formal U.S. in recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which we did with legislation in 2019 and which President Biden made official last year. We had been trying to do this in a bipartisan way, in both Houses of the Congress, for a long time. And finally we have a President who said he would sign the Armenian Genocide resolution. We thank the President for doing that and for inviting the Prime Minister to participate in the Democracy Summit this year.
Moving ahead, Armenia has always had a particular focus on security following – again, we planned this trip before the assault on the border of Armenia took place. So again, when we lead [Congressional delegations], it’s always about security: our security, our mutual security, regional security, global security. Armenia is of particular importance to us because — the focus on security following the illegal and deadly attacks from Azerbaijan on Armenian territory. We strongly condemn the attacks, we and our delegation, on behalf of the Congress, which threatens prospects for much needed peace.
As the United States, which is an OSCE Minsk Chair, has made long clear: there can be no military solution. Our President is the Co-Chair of that. We continue to watch the situation closely, and we continue to support a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement to all issues related to the conflict. I mentioned in our meeting earlier, the effort — a long time, decades in the Congress in a bipartisan way — we have tried to hold Turkey responsible as well as Azerbaijan for that conflict.
Before we open to questions, let me express my pride in three of the strongest champions of Armenia to ever serve in the Congress. Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, Chair of many committees but two important – House Armed Services Committee, Chair of the Military Personnel and under Intelligence, the Chair of the Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research Subcommittee. Nobody Chairs two subcommittees, but Jackie does. And Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California, a former Member of the Intelligence Committee and now Chair of the Health subcommittee under Energy and Commerce.
I give their leadership roles because the standing that they have in the Congress is very respected. So their support of Armenia — and in the case of Congresswomen Eshoo and Congresswoman Speier, it comes naturally to them as Armenian Americans — but it’s intellectual in terms of strategic thinking, knowledge of what’s going on and a commitment to support a strong and free Republic of Armenia. As Californians, all three of us recognize that 40 percent of Armenian-Americans are in California. So we feel this is a family visit for us because we are surrounded by not only their heritage but their great faith and patriotism in America.
Our meeting is one of several important engagements that will continue to inform Congress’s work. We learned a lot listening to Members of Parliament, specificity on issues and the challenges that we all face in this – to strengthen our partnership with Armenia and advance our values and interests in the region.
And I want to thank you once again for your hospitality and for the opportunity to welcome you to Washington earlier this year and continue our conversation over that period of time and now, in person.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as you saw, the immediate response from the United States was to stop the violence and to have a ceasefire. We – our delegation had been very outspoken, saying that this was initiated by Azeris and that there has to be recognition of that and how that will stop. What we have been learning on this visit is some of the – some of the challenges that were presented by the so-called peace agreement coming from the conflict into – resolution of the conflict in 2020 and how that maybe contributed to the violence now on the part of the Azeris. And I promised my colleagues that they have to respond to that question.
Congresswoman Speier. The House of Representatives has already introduced a resolution, co-authored by all of us here, that will say that we condemn the actions by Azerbaijan, that they must cease and desist. And we are hopeful that we will take up that resolution as soon.
As to our commitment to Armenia, we will continue to support the integrity of the democracy of Armenia and the borders and resist any effort to have those borders changed.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much for your very comprehensive question. Mr. Pallone, did you want to respond?
Chairman Pallone. We – I’ll speak for myself and say – I don’t want to speak for others – I say that we understand that Armenia is part of this security arrangement with Russia. Now, we’re not suggesting anything about that. What we are saying is that the United States is very concerned about Armenia’s security, we want to do whatever we can to be more supportive of Armenia’s security and that we’re going to work to see what can be done by the United States to be – to help with Armenia’s security, without reference to Russia or the Russian arrangement.
Speaker Pelosi. If I may just add to my colleague’s response, Armenia – the democracy in Armenia is a joy to the world. The Velvet Revolution was cheered globally. And that is something that was reinforced in the recent election, which was free and fair and recognized as such. So again, you’re a good example to the transition to democracy. And we support that.
As Mr. Pallone said, your interrelations with other entities is up to Armenia to decide. But from our standpoint – not ‘but’ — and from our standpoint, this – territorial, security and sovereignty of Armenia, the democracy of Armenia is of value to us in America. And in our relationships with other countries, in the mix here, we should be using our influence, our leverage, showing that Armenian democracy and sovereignty is a priority. Speaking from our side — not telling Armenia what they should be doing. It is interesting that they were disappointed that they got fact-finders and not protection from that relationship. We’ll see what happens, see what happens next.
If I may just say, Congresswoman Speier mentioned the resolution of condemnation of Azeri invasion of Armenia. That is – will be taken up soon in the Congress. I want to also add that she is leader on that with the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who co-chaired – who co-sponsored that resolution. But he was the lead sponsor on the Armenian Genocide resolution. We all take great pride in the number of Armenian Americans in our district. He claims the most, he had the resolution, I wanted to pay tribute to him.
Speaker Pelosi. Well first, may I say that part of our – the value of our visit and the value of our discussions is to hear what, from your perspective, from Armenia’s perspective, how we can be helpful. And that has been a big part of our discussions thus far.
One particular thing that we predict, more related to the economy than to security — except that they’re all related — is that the Speaker asked us to support Armenia’s steps that it is taking to be part of the Millennium Challenge. And that was a very big initiative for economic growth and fairness. So we did commit that we would work to help with that.
On the defense side, we are listening to – rather than coming here and saying this is what we’re prepared to do, we’re listening to what the needs are. Congresswoman Eshoo, did you want to do this first?
Congresswoman Eshoo. Thank you. I think that it’s important to note that before we came to Armenia, that in the defense budget, that has increased for Armenia, as well as the funding for demining, which is essential as well. But all of our talks are to listen to the leadership and to be enlightened by the specific needs that we can go home and work on.
A democracy is a very fragile thing. The American people are learning how fragile democracy is. So security and democracy go together. And as the – as one of the great democracies of the world, as the Speaker said, we rejoice in this democracy, we rejoice in this democracy. And for us, we will do everything to strengthen and care for her, that democracy, as you work internally to do so as well. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Congresswoman Eshoo, Congresswoman Speier, Congressman Pallone, they’re all Chairs — Chair, Chair, Chair.
May I just conclude by saying this: as each of colleagues have said, the democracy in Armenia is of value to the world, a joy to the world. And congratulations for the success of the Velvet Revolution and the recent fair and free – free and fair elections.
We have to enlarge the issue, though. In security, what does security in Armenia mean to regional and global security. What does democracy in Armenia mean in the fight between democracy and autocracy, which is going on in the world now? In both cases, it means a great deal.
And that’s why, as Americans, when we talk about how can we be helpful, we’ll be – in very discreet ways. We want to be helpful in discreet ways. We also want to take the democracy and sovereignty of Armenia to a bigger arena when we talk about democracy versus autocracy. Security and liberty.
At the beginning of our country, Benjamin Franklin was asked, ‘What do we want, security or freedom?’ He said, ‘You cannot have either, unless you have both.’ So let’s work to strengthen both when it comes to our relationship between the United States and Armenia. I yield back.
Speaker Pelosi. As you know, the – what happened in the last week is recent and just more evidence of some of the – what we’ve been fighting for a long time, the treatment of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, the treatment of holy sites, as well as the people there. So again, we’re speaking from the standpoint of the Congress of the United States. Our President has been a proud supporter of Armenia in terms of the genocide resolution, in terms of the invitation to the Summit, and we’ll work together to see what the next steps, the next steps may be. But what we’d like to see right away is a ceasefire, a ceasefire and, of course, the recognition of how this all came to be in the last week.