Armenia’s government has warned the opposition against attempting a “coup” as it plans a protest in Yerevan on November 11 to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation.
Political tensions are growing in the Caucasus nation after Pashinian signed a Russian-brokered agreement with Azerbaijan to end more than six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians in and around the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
While the announcement of a cease-fire deal early on November 10 triggered celebrations in Azerbaijan, it sparked angry protests in the Armenian capital with demonstrators storming government buildings and parliament.
Ahead of the planned opposition protest on November 11, Armenian police warned that holding rallies continues to be banned in the country, which has been under martial law since the latest fighting broke out in the enclave on September 27.
Speaking on state television, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian did not rule out that the current government could resign, but warned against any “coup” attempt.
“I want to assure all of the political forces that are trying to catch fish in murky waters in conditions of martial law that there will be no tolerance in this matter,” the deputy prime minister said.
He said that the time for looking for those responsible in a domestic political process will still come.
“If necessary, this government will go, a new government will be elected, but our team and I personally cannot allow any coup attempts,” Avinian said.
President Armen Sarkisian has launched “consultations” with representatives of several political parties in a bid to defuse tensions and maintain national “unity,” his office said.
Under the Russian-brokered truce deal, which includes the deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops to Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan will keep territory in the region and surrounding areas captured during the recent fighting.
It also calls for Armenian forces to hand over some areas it held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh.
More than 400 Russian troops are already being put in place to be part of a renewable five-year peacekeeping mission “in order to control the cease-fire implementation and the termination of hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone,” according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.
Nearly 2,000 Russian troops will eventually be active in the region and they will guard the so-called Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh’s main city, Stepanakert, to Armenia.
Dozens of armored personnel carriers are also to be deployed as part of the peacekeeping mission.
The truce came after Azerbaijani forces made major battlefield gains, including reports they were approaching Stepanakert after taking the nearby strategic town of Shushi, known as Susa in Azeri.
Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s troops and ethnic Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.
Efforts to resolve the conflict by the OSCE Minsk Group — cochaired by Russia, France, and the United States — have not brought any results since 1992 and three previous cease-fires signed since fighting broke out again in late September have failed to hold.
Several thousand people are believed to have been killed on both sides in nearly two months of fighting, and thousands of others have fled Nagorno-Karabakh.
Announcing the trilateral agreement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on the “termination” of the war early on November 10, Pashinian said it was “the best possible solution for the current situation.”
The prime minister later said in a live broadcast on his Facebook page that he signed the deal after the military “began to constantly insist on the need to take such a step.”
According to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the agreement amounted to a “capitulation” by Armenia.