Armenian minister quits amid truce turmoil

Avet Demourian
·2-min read

Armenia's foreign minister has resigned amid political turmoil engulfing the country following a cease-fire deal for the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh that calls for ceding territory to longtime adversary Azerbaijan.

The Moscow-brokered truce halted fighting that killed hundreds - and possibly thousands - in six weeks.

However it stipulated Armenia turn over control of some areas its holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh's borders to Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

That war left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself but substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.

The agreement was celebrated in Azerbaijan but sparked mass protests in Armenia, with thousands taking to the streets and demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian step down and the deal be invalidated.

The resignation of Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was announced on Monday by his spokeswoman, Anna Nagdhalyan.

She posted his handwritten resignation on Facebook shortly after Pashinian said in parliament he decided to dismiss Mnatsakanyan.

On Monday evening, President Armen Sarkissian signed a decree relieving Mnatsakanyan of his duties.

Earlier the ministry publicly disagreed with Pashinian over the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks.

Pashinian said during an online news conference there had been offers to cede to Azerbaijan regions that Armenia controlled around Nagorno-Karabakh and the city of Shusha near the territory's capital of Stepanakert.

Naghdalyan retorted on Facebook that giving up Shusha was not on the agenda "at any stage" of negotiations.

The exchange and ensuing resignation of Mnatsakanyan, who has held the post since 2018, could indicate the political crisis in Armenia is deepening.

It comes as 17 opposition parties and their supporters continue to demand Pashinian's ouster, with thousands taking to the streets of the capital of Yerevan.

Crowds gathered on Monday for another rally, and in the evening, Sarkissian turned up the pressure on Pashinian, saying in an address to the nation that holding early elections is "inevitable".

Sarkissian said he has been meeting with members of various political and social groups, and "the vast majority" agree on one thing - "the resignation of the prime minister in accordance with the Constitution or the termination of his powers, and holding early parliamentary elections".

But to hold a vote of no confidence, opposition MPs need to shore up support in Pashinian's My Step faction, which holds an overwhelming 132-seat parliamentary majority.