Armenian parliament besieged by protesters demanding PM’s resignation

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Thousands of protesters have converged on Armenia’s parliament building to push for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over his handing of fighting with Azerbaijan.

They are angry about a peace deal that ended six weeks of fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh but saw Azerbaijan take over wide areas that have been controlled by Armenian forces for more than a quarter of a century.

Armenia’s opposition parties gave Mr Pashinyan an ultimatum to resign by Tuesday, but he has ignored the demand, defending the peace deal as a bitter but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenian police try to block protesters
Armenian police try to block protesters (Aram Kirakosyan/PAN Photo via AP)

The opposition has been pushing for Mr Pashinyan’s resignation since the Russia-brokered peace deal took effect on November 10. Protests have grown over the past days, with demonstrators blocking traffic in various sections of the capital, and also rallying in other cities.

The Armenian Apostolic Church and all three of the country’s former presidents have joined the demand for Mr Pashinyan to step down.

Undeterred, the prime minister told MPs in parliament that the nation needs consolidation in the current difficult period.

“Voices of different groups mustn’t be mistaken for the people’s voice,” he said.

Police detain a demonstrator during the protests
Police detain a demonstrator during the protests (AP/Hrant Khachatryan)

In 44 days of fighting that began in late September and left more than 5,600 people killed on both sides, the Azerbaijani army forged deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept the peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim much of the separatist region along with surrounding areas.

Azerbaijanis have celebrated it as a major victory, and the country is set to hold a massive military parade on Thursday – to be attended by visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan during the conflict, which it used to expand its influence in the region.

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