Calls for Armenia’s PM to quit as president refuses order to sack military chief

Calls for Armenia’s PM to quit as president refuses order to sack military chief
Opposition demonstrators during a rally to pressure Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP)

Around 15,000 protesters calling for the resignation of Armenia’s prime minister have marched through the capital.

Pressure is increasing on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after the country’s president rejected his order to dismiss the chief of the military general staff.

Protests against Mr Pashinyan arose in November after he signed a ceasefire ending a six-week war with Azerbaijan over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The agreement saw Armenia lose control of territories in Azerbaijan it had held for more than 25 years.

Top military officers this week joined in demanding Mr Pashinyan’s resignation, a move that he called an attempted coup. He ordered the dismissal of the chief of the general staff, but the order was subject to approval by Armenia’s largely ceremonial president.

Protesters in Yerevan, Armenia (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP)

President Armen Sarkissian sent the order back to Mr Pashinyan on Saturday, saying he could not give approval because he considered parts of the decree to be in violation of the constitution.

At the protest rally, opposition politician Naira Zograbyan, who was once a journalist at a newspaper owned by Mr Pashinyan, denounced the prime minister.

“This is not a military coup. This is a revolution of thought, reason, love, which will win,” she said.

The political crisis is being watched closely, particularly in Russia and Turkey, which compete for influence in the South Caucasus region.

The South Caucasus has strategic importance as a bridge between Europe and Asia and major pipelines transporting Azerbaijani oil to the West pass through the region.

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