Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has fueled anger over Azerbaijan’s contentious peace settlement, on Monday called for an end to the bloodshed after claims of an assault on his life.
Pashinyan announced a Moscow-brokered peace agreement last week that ended weeks of hard fighting over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh territory that left tens of thousands of people dead and displaced at least 2,400.
After the post-Soviet War of the 1990s, Armenia has agreed to cede parts of the territory to Azerbaijan as well as other regions occupied by Armenian separatists.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Armenian capital of Yerevan after the agreement was revealed, branding Pashinyan a “traitor” and demanding his resignation. Government offices were also stormed by demonstrators.
Pashinyan called for calm on Monday.
I have specifically mentioned today that violence or the provoking of violence (in particular armed violence) cannot in any way constitute a means of intervention for the government,’ Pashinyan said on Facebook.
Pashinyan said he believed that the opposition would also announce that any aggressive activity” was not funded.
Authorities on Saturday said they disrupted an attempt to kill Armenia’s former chief of security services, Prime Minister and detained opposition leader Artur Vanetsyan.
On Sunday, Vanetsyan, chief of the “Homeland” center-right party, was released after a court ruled that his arrest lacked legal basis.
A dozen leaders of the opposition were jailed last week for inciting protests, but were also acquitted by the courts.
Almost 30 years ago, Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed independence from Azerbaijan, but it was not recognised internationally, except by Armenia.
Armenian foreign minister resigns
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan also resigned from his post on Monday, in an indication of the diplomatic breakdown of the ceasefire agreement.
Mnatsakanyan, whose resignation was confirmed on his Facebook page by the ministry’s spokeswoman, had held the position since May 2018.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Monday in Yerevan’s central Freedom Square in the capital.
On November 10, the truce signed by the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia prevented military activity in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave acknowledged internationally as part of Azerbaijan but inhabited by ethnic Armenians. There are now some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops deploying to the area.
In the past month-and-a-half, Mnatsakanyan visited Azerbaijan’s counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov three times in search of a truce agreement, but each attempt soon broke down.
For more than 25 years, ethnic Armenians retained territorial influence over the whole mountain pocket and large swaths of Azeri territory ringing it, before the war over Nagorno-Karabakh resumed on September 27. But when the weapons fell silent, all of the enclave itself, including its second city of Shushi, which Azeris call Shusha, and surrounding terrain, had been destroyed.
On Monday, Pashinyan said that if Armenia voluntarily ceded control of seven regions covering Nagorno-Karabakh and Shushi, the war may have been stopped. But we took up the war offer, he told a news conference.
Shortly afterwards, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan wrote on Facebook that giving up Shushi was never on the table at any point of the sides’ talks.
Pashinyan said that the road that links Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenian state territory via the Lachin area will be reopened later on Monday, and that many of the enclave’s displaced residents were returning to their homes.