thousands of demonstrators demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian

thousands of demonstrators demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian
thousands of demonstrators demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian

Thousands of people demonstrated in Armenia on Sunday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian after the transfer of border villages to Azerbaijan, with whom Yerevan has had territorial disputes for decades. A protest movement emerged last month in this Caucasian country after the government agreed to cede territories it had controlled since the 1990s to Baku.

On Friday, in a key step towards the normalization of relations between the two rival countries, which have opposed each other in several wars, Yerevan returned four border villages to Baku.

Several thousand people gathered on Republic Square in the Armenian capital on Sunday in new protests led by the charismatic Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian, a religious leader in the Tavouch region, where villages have been returned to the ‘Azerbaijan.

Landlocked country

“Our people want to change the bitter reality that has been imposed on us”Bagrat Galstanian proclaimed in front of the crowd, adding that the fixing of the unstable border with Azerbaijan “must only be done after the signing of a peace treaty” with Baku. “We demand the immediate resignation of Nikol (Pachinian)”, declared to AFP one of the demonstrators, Artour Sargsian, 67, who said he had participated in two wars against Azerbaijan. The ceded territory is of strategic importance to landlocked Armenia because it controls sections of a vital route to Georgia.

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Armenian residents of neighboring towns say the measure cuts them off from the rest of the country and accuse Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian of ceding territory without getting anything in return. Nikol Pashinian assures for his part that this decision aims to guarantee peace with Baku. In a televised statement Friday evening, the Prime Minister assured that the resolution of border disputes with Azerbaijan “is the only guarantee of the very existence of the Armenian Republic within its internationally recognized and legitimate border”.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian seeks to launch impeachment proceedings against Nikol Pashinian. He said on Sunday that he would give up his clerical role to run for prime minister, and called for early parliamentary elections. “My spiritual service is above all possible positions, but I am ready to sacrifice it in the name of change in this country”, he said to the crowd who were cheering him. He then called on the demonstrators to head towards Nikol Pashinian’s residence.

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