Thousands of opposition supporters have marched across the Armenian capital to demand the resignation of the country’s prime minister over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.
In a six-week war that ended on November 10 with a Russian-brokered peace deal, the Azerbaijani army recaptured land that had been occupied by Armenian forces for more than a century.
Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections, but Armenian opposition groups have warned Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that he will not resign if he does not resign by noon on Tuesday. Pashinyan refused to resign, defending the agreement as a painful but necessary step that would prevent Azerbaijan from controlling the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
On Saturday, more than 20,000 protesters gathered in Yerevan, shouting, “Nicole, you are a traitor!” And “Nicole, get out!” And then proceeded to the official residence of the Prime Minister.
“The seat of the Prime Minister of Armenia is currently occupied by a political corpse,” Artur Vanetsian, leader of the opposition Homeland and former head of the National Security Service, told the rally.
Several priests from the Armenian Apostolic Church joined the protest and denounced Pashinyan for allowing Azerbaijan to occupy some of the holy sites.
Nagarono-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since the end of the separatist war in 1994. This conflict has left not only Nagrono-Karabakh, but a large part of the surrounding lands in the hands of the Armenians.
In a 44-day battle that began on September 2, Azerbaijani troops turned their backs on Armenian forces and became deeply involved in Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to abide by the November 10 peace agreement that returned a significant portion of the separatist territory to Azerbaijan. It also forced Armenia to cede all territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan recaptured the Lachin region between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on Tuesday. Azerbaijan celebrated the end of the war as a national victory and President Ilham Aliyev established a new November 8 national holiday called Victory Day to commemorate the occasion.
Armenian opposition leaders have blamed Pashinyan for failing to negotiate an end to hostilities, saying the post could be more beneficial to Armenia. However, they insisted that the opposition was not pushing for a peace deal.
Veteran politician Wazgen Manukian, who has nominated 17 opposition parties as their prime ministerial candidate, told a rally on Saturday that his transitional government would try to reconsider some aspects of the November 10 peace deal.
Manukian (1) served as prime minister in 1990-99, when Armenia was part of the Soviet Union and later served as defense minister during the separatist war.
Azerbaijan on Thursday released data on military casualties from recent fighting. Its defense ministry said 2,7863 troops had been killed and more than 100 were missing, and the government said 99 civilians had been killed and more than 400 wounded.
Armenia’s health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 2,777 Armenian soldiers had been killed in the fighting. At least 55 Armenian civilians were also killed.
Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal and facilitate the return of refugees. Russian troops will ensure safe movement between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia across the Lachin region.
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