News ID: 281148
Published: 0338 GMT February 27, 2021

Armenian president defies PM, refuses to fire top general

Armenian president defies PM, refuses to fire top general
Artem Mikryukov/REUTERS

People attend an opposition demonstration to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on February 26, 2021.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian refused to fire the head of the general staff of the country’s armed forces after he was dismissed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the presidential office said on Saturday.

Pashinyan dismissed the head of the general staff Onik Gasparyan on Thursday after what he had called an attempted coup to remove him, but the move had to be signed off by the president, Reuters reported.

According to the president’s statement, posted on the presidential office website, the move to dismiss Gasparyan was unconstitutional.

The army has called for the resignation of Pashinyan and his government after what critics say was the disastrous handling of a bloody six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

On Friday, several hundred opposition supporters were camped out in tents outside Armenia's parliament demanding Pashinyan's resignation.

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, according to AFP.

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.

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.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000 lives, a cease-fire 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".




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