Tuesday, Another Armenian Minister Resigns Armenia -- Minister of Emergency Situations FelixTsolakian speaks at a polling station in Gyumri, December 9, 2018 Minister for Emergency Situations Felix Tsolakian stepped down on Tuesday amid continuing opposition calls for the Armenian government’s resignation. Neither Tsolakian nor his spokesperson Anna Baghdasarian gave a reason for the move. Tsolakian hinted at his resignation earlier in the day when he met with a large group of Ministry for Emergency Situations employees who returned to Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh where they took part in the six-week war with Azerbaijan. Tsolakian, 68, is the second minister to leave Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government since a Russian-mediated agreement stopped the war on November 10. Pashinian announced on Monday that he has decided to sack Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian. The latter insisted, however, that he himself tendered his resignation. But he too gave no reason. Earlier on Monday, an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman publicly contradicted Pashinian’s comments regarding Shushi (Shusha), Karabakh’s second largest city captured by Azerbaijani forces during the war. The terms of the Karabakh truce brokered by Moscow sparked street protests in Yerevan, with Armenian opposition groups accusing Pashinian’s government of capitulating to Azerbaijan and demanding his resignation. Pashinian and his political allies reject the opposition demands. Putin Hopes For Final Karabakh Settlement • Aza Babayan RUSSIA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting dedicated to a humanitarian mission in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh via a video conference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, November 13, 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh may have laid the groundwork for an eventual resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Putin mentioned the November 9 deal as he spoke at a virtual summit of the leaders of Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa making up the BRICS grouping. “It is important that the mentioned agreements are being observed,” he said. “Hostilities have been fully stopped and the situation is stabilizing. Conditions have thus been created for a long-term and full resolution of the crisis on a just basis and in the interests of both the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples.” Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev struck the deal six weeks after the start of the war that killed thousands of soldiers from both sides. Azerbaijan agreed to halt offensive military operations in return for an Armenian pledge to withdraw by the end of this month from three districts around Karabakh. Baku regained control over four other districts, which had been occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in the early 1990s, during the latest war. The truce accord also calls for the deployment in the conflict zone of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. It says nothing about Karabakh’s future status, the main bone of contention. Yerevan has indicated that it will continue to seek international recognition of Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. By contrast, Aliyev stated on Tuesday that Baku will not even agree to grant the Armenian-populated territory an autonomous status. Russia has for decades tried to broker a Karabakh settlement together with the United States and France. The three world powers co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed the Karabakh conflict when they met in Paris on Monday. According to a U.S. State Department official, they acknowledged Russia’s role in the end of the hostilities while concurring that Moscow should further clarify terms of the ceasefire deal and Turkey’s role in its implementation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Moscow is ready to provide such clarifications. Ruling Bloc Silent On Snap Elections • Tatevik Lazarian Armenia -- Pro-government and opposition deputies argue on the parliament floor, . Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance did not respond on Tuesday to President Armen Sarkissian’s calls for fresh parliamentary elections in Armenia. In a televised address to the nation broadcast late on Monday, Sarkissian said the elections would “save the country from upheavals” in the wake of the six-week war that resulted in Armenian territorial losses in and around Karabakh, He said they should be held by a new, interim “government of national accord.” Pashinian and his bloc controlling the Armenian parliament did not react to the statement as of Tuesday evening. A senior member of My Step, deputy parliament speaker Lena Nazarian, said in the afternoon that the ruling political team has not yet discussed the issue. “The official view of [My Step’s parliamentary] faction is expressed by the faction leader [Lilit Makunts.] Please talk to her,” Nazarian told reporters. “I have nothing to add at this point,” said Makunts. “When we have something clear to say on this score we will definitely make a statement.” Sarkissian made the case for the current government’s resignation and snap elections amid continuing opposition protests in Yerevan against Pashinian’s handling of the war with Azerbaijan and terms of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped it on November 10. Opposition parties staging the protests demand the prime minister’s resignation. “A leader who led his country to defeat must not stay in power,” Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker representing one of those parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), insisted on Tuesday. Speaking on the parliament floor, Zohrabian charged that Pashinian is trying to cling to power “at any cost.” Deputies from the opposition Bright Armenia Party also demanded Pashinian’s resignation. “Under the current government and prime minister our situation would worsen by the day,” one of them, Gevorg Gorgisian, said. Makunts dismissed the opposition demands. “By stirring up such emotions now that our officials are holding negotiations and very important processes are unfolding with respect to Karabakh one does demonstrate a patriotic and statesmanlike position,” she said. Echoing statements by Pashinian, Makunts said the government is ready for a “constructive” dialogue with the opposition. But she did not elaborate. Karabakh Unveils Post-War Aid Package For Residents NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Men walk past a burnt shop in Stepanakert, Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh will not have to pay for electricity, natural gas and other utilities for the next year as part of an emergency aid package approved by Karabakh’s leadership on Tuesday. Ara Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, said the exemptions are necessary for alleviating the socioeconomic plight of the territory’s population in the wake of the devastating war with Azerbaijan. Harutiunian also promised to compensate low-income local residents and those Karabakh Armenians whose homes were destroyed during the six-week war. The homeless people will receive 300,000 drams ($607) each, he said at a meeting with senior officials in Stepanakert. “The Karabakh government is committing itself to solving the housing problems of all our homeless citizens within several years. In the meantime, the state will continue providing these families with financial aid that will cover their housing rent,” added Harutiunian. The Karabakh leader did not specify the total cost of the aid package or say whether it will be financed by Armenia’s government and the Yerevan-based All-Armenian Fund Hayastan. The pan-Armenian charity has raised about $200 million for economic and humanitarian aid to Karabakh since the outbreak of the war on September 27. The money has been donated by people in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. The Armenian government announced separately that it will pay one-off compensations to all Karabakh residents displaced by the large-scale hostilities. It said each of them will receive 68,000 drams. According to authorities in Stepanakert, at least 90,000 civilians making up around 60 percent of Karabakh’s population fled their homes during the war. Most of them took refuge in Armenia. More than a thousand refugees have reportedly returned to Karabakh since a Russian-mediated agreement stopped the war on November 10. Armenian President Calls For Snap Elections Armenia -- President Armen Sarkissian addresses the nation, . President Armen Sarkissian called late on Monday for the holding of fresh parliamentary elections in Armenia, saying that they are needed to resolve a political crisis sparked by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The elections would “save the country from upheavals” in the wake of the six-week war that resulted in Armenian territorial losses in and around Karabakh, Sarkisian said in a televised address to the nation. He urged Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government and My Step alliance to come up with a “roadmap” for the snap polls. They should be held by a new, interim “government of national accord,” added the head of state. Sarkissian, who has largely ceremonial powers, said that his proposals reflect the dominant view of political party leaders and public figures with whom he has held consultations in recent days. Some of those parties have been holding demonstrations in Yerevan to condemn Pashinian’s handling of the war and demand his resignation. The prime minister has rejected their demands. He has yet to publicly clarify whether he could agree to snap general elections demanded by his political opponents. Pashinian and his political team did not immediately react to Sarkissian’s speech. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.