Anti-government demonstrations once again took place in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, on Friday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after Azerbaijan held a victory parade to celebrate its seizure of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
While Nagorno-Karabakh is technically part of Azerbaijan, the vast majority of its population is ethnically Armenian and Baku and had not exercised control of the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Local Armenian separatists had governed it, calling it the “Republic of Artsakh,” prior to the conflict beginning in September that ended last month with a Russia-brokered peace deal.
Demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Armenia without Nikol” and “Nikol must go” as they filled the streets of Yerevan on Friday, even after Pashinyan admitted he was “ready to discuss” the possibility of calling early parliamentary elections.
“The authorities are ready to start such discussions on the condition, as the prime minister noted, that no party threatens others,” Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Alen Simonian told reporters on Thursday.
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Demonstrations have taken place on an almost daily basis over the past two weeks after Pashinyan, who came to power in 2018 following similar social unrest, ignored their demand for his resignation by midday Tuesday. Protesters have tried various methods of disruption, including blocking the streets and storming the country’s parliament building.
Among those calling for Pashinyan’s resignation are the Armenian Apostolic Church and three of the country’s former presidents. Addressing MP’s in parliament this week, he spoke of the need for political stability and warned that “voices of different groups mustn’t be mistaken for the people’s voice.”
Opposition to Pashinyan is the result of his decision to sign a ceasefire agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which left more than 5,600 deaths on both sides. Under the agreement, Azerbaijan will keep a large chunk of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its surrounding areas that belonged to Armenia, much to the dismay of the Armenian people.
On signing the deal, Pashinyan admitted that it was “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people.” He added that he agreed to sign after “deep analyses of the combat situation and in discussion with best experts of the field” as Azerbaijani forces made major battlefield gains, including the key strategic town of Shushi.
Protests on Friday took place after Azerbaijan held a victory parade in the capital Baku on Thursday to celebrate the outcome. The ceremony was attended by Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who strongly backed the Azeris during the conflict.
“From the first hours of the war, we felt the support of Turkey,” Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in his victory speech. “This is an example of our unity, our brotherhood.”
Erdogan used his speech to blame Armenia for the conflict and expressed hope the country would “take lessons” from their defeat.
“We hope that Armenian leaders will assess this carefully and take courageous steps to build a future based on peace and stability,” Erdogan declared. “As long as Turkey and Azerbaijan work hand in glove, they will continue to overcome all difficulties and run from one success to the next.”