Armenian protesters camp outside parliament demanding PM’s resignation

Opposition supporters gather by tents set up near Armenia’s National Assembly building during a protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on February 26, 2021.
Opposition supporters gather by tents set up near Armenia’s National Assembly building during a protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on February 26, 2021. © Karen Minasyan, AFP

Several hundred opposition supporters were camped out in tents outside Armenia's parliament on Friday demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation over his handling of last year's war with Azerbaijan.

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The small South Caucasus nation plunged Thursday into a fresh political crisis as Pashinyan defied calls to resign, accused the military of an attempted coup and rallied some 20,000 supporters in the capital Yerevan.

The opposition gathered some 10,000 of its own supporters, who put up tents outside the parliament building, erected barricades and vowed to hold round-the-clock demonstrations.

On Friday morning, opposition supporters blocked streets near the parliament building as they prepared to stage a new rally set for 0900 GMT.

A leader of the opposition Dashnaktsutyun party, Gegham Manukyan, told reporters that opposition parties would only speak with Pashinyan about "his resignation."

Pashinyan has said he is ready to start talks with the opposition to defuse tensions, but also threatened to arrest any opponents if they violate the law.

Pashinyan has faced fierce criticism since he signed a peace deal brokered by Russia that ended the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan's control during a war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey making steady gains.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000 lives, a ceasefire agreement was signed that handed over significant territory to Azerbaijan and allowed for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers.

The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for many in Armenia, though Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to agree or see his country's forces suffer even bigger losses.

Armenia's military had backed Pashinyan for months but on Thursday the military's general staff joined calls for him to step down, saying in a statement that he and his cabinet were "not capable of taking adequate decisions".

(AFP)

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