- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 22, 2020

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) - Thousands of people took to the Armenian capital’s streets again Tuesday, demanding the prime minister’s resignation over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.

Armenian opposition politicians and their supporters have been calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down for weeks since he signed a peace deal that halted 44 days of deadly fighting at the cost of territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

Crowds of protesters on Tuesday besieged government buildings in Yerevan, chanting “Nikol, go away!” In other parts of Armenia, protesters were reported to have blocked several major roads. Several hours into the rally, opposition supporters erected tents on Yerevan’s main square.

“We have pitched the tents and intend to stay as long as possible, including overnight. Pashinyan needs to resign,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a member of the opposition Dashnaktsutyun party, was quoted by the Russian state news agency Tass as saying.

The opposition also called on Pashinyan’s My Step coalition, which currently has the majority of seats in the parliament, to sit down for talks on Tuesday. My Step so far has not commented on the proposal.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.

Heavy fighting erupted in late September in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing more than 5,600 people on both sides.

A Russian-brokered peace agreement that took effect Nov. 10 stipulated that Armenia hand over control of some areas it holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders. Azerbaijan also retained control over areas of Nagorno-Karabakh it had taken during the conflict.

The peace deal was celebrated in Azerbaijan as a major triumph, but sparked outrage and mass protests in Armenia where thousands repeatedly took to the streets. Pashinyan has defended the deal as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.


Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

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