Armenian president calls for unity government as peacekeeping mission begins in Nagorno-Karabakh
On Monday, Armenia's President Armen Sargsyan called for early parliamentary elections and the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan's government over last week's truce agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sputnik Armenia reports that Sargsyan convened meetings with figures in civil society, the Armenian diaspora and members of parliament. The majority agreed that the current government needed to be dissolved. Sargsyan expressed hope that this would be possible and insisted his mission now was focused on creating national unity.
"If we need to take into account the current situation and the need for a decent way out of it and listen to the public demands, it becomes obvious; in order to save the country from shocks, early elections to the National Assembly will be inevitable," Sargsyan said in a statement reported by Russian state-news agency RIA Novosti.
Last Tuesday, a truce was signed between the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia that brought an end to the most recent conflict that started on September 27. Under this deal, Azerbaijan would keep the territories it captured in it's military campaign and landlocked Nakhichevan province would be connected to the mainland through a new corridor. This would further connect Baku to its primary ally Turkey.
Another corridor would be constructed to connect Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert. This ceasefire in turn would be upheld by the presence of almost 2,000 Russian peacekeepers, the first peacekeepers arriving along the Lachin Corridor a day after the truce was signed.
Turkey was not a signatory to the truce in Moscow despite the insistence of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev that Ankara be allowed a seat at the negotiating table.
Moscow rejected the inclusion of Turkish troops as part of the peacekeeping operation, but a Turkish contingent was invited to serve as observers at a Russian operated centre in Azerbaijan. On Monday, Turkey's Grand National Assembly formally received a motion to approve this deployment.
Since the truce, Armenia has been rocked by at times violent protests over what many perceive as the betrayal of the nation by Prime Minister Pashinyan, who protestors accuse of surrendering to Azerbaijan.
Protestors stormed the Armenian parliament on November 10 and Russian newswire service Interfax reported two days later that up to 10 members of the Armenian opposition were arrested. One of those arrested, former intelligence chief Artur Vanetsyan, was arrested for plotting to murder Pashinyan on Saturday.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, some Armenian forces still in the province refused orders from Russian peacekeepers to withdraw from their positions. In videos shared with the news site Vestnik Kavkaza, the Russians are filmed telling the soldiers to lay down their arms and that "Your resistance makes no sense now."
On Monday, Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan resigned his position and was granted release from his duties by President Sargsyan. Anna Naghdalyan, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, wrote on Facebook that Mnatsakanyan resigned over the decision by Pashinyan to relinquish Shusha to Azerbaijan even though that was not included in the peace agreement.
Pashinyan told the nation that he accepted full responsibility for the truce, insisting that the military situation grew more dire after Azerbaijan captured the town of Shusha and endangering Stepanakert.
An Armenian government source told Russian news agency RBC last week the decision to capitulate was made by Pashinyan, head of Armenia's General Staff Onik Gasparyan and the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh's autonomous government Arayik Harutyunan.
President Sargsyan, himself a former diplomat, appeared to confirm this by issuing a statement revealing he had learned about the truce document from the media, not Pashinyan's government.