Armenia’s political tensions still high after PM’s coup talk

The Star, Toronto, Canada
Feb 27 2021

YEREVAN, Armenia – Political tensions in Armenia remained high Friday, a day after the prime minister accused top military officers who demanded his resignation of an attempted coup.

Nikol Pashinyan has faced opposition calls to step down over a Nov. 10 peace deal that ended six weeks of fierce fighting with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The peace agreement saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century.

Earlier this week, Pashinyan dismissed the first deputy chief of the military’s General Staff that includes the armed forces’ top officers. In response, the General Staff called Thursday for Pashinyan’s resignation, but he doubled down and ordered that the chief of the General Staff be dismissed.

Pashinyan’s spat with the top military officers encouraged the opposition supporters. Over 20,000 rallied in the Armenian capital, demanding the prime minister’s resignation, while Pashinyan led his own supporters at a rival rally.

Some opposition demonstrators put up tents outside the government headquarters and barricaded the main avenue to press their demand for Pashinyan’s resignation.

The top military officers didn’t make any further moves Friday in the wake of their demand for Pashinyan to step down.

Pashinyan’s order on Thursday to dismiss the chief of the General Staff, Col.-Gen. Onik Gasparyan, is subject to approval by the nation’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian, who has three days to decide.

Sarkissian, who has had previous frictions with Pashinyan and earlier called on him to step down, met Friday with the General Staff chief and opposition leaders but didn’t make any public statements.

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