Turkish press: Armenia’s opposition resumes protests over Karabakh dispute

Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Armenian flags as they take part in an opposition rally to protest against the Karabakh concession in Yerevan on May 4, 2022. (AFP)

Armenia's opposition parties on Wednesday resumed street protests in the capital Yerevan in a bid to oust Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian over his handling of a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

Thousands of opposition supporters have rallied daily since Sunday, briefly blocking streets in central Yerevan in a campaign to force Pashinian to resign.

Opposition leaders have accused him of plotting to cede to Azerbaijan all of the long-contested Karabakh region, previously known as Nagorno-Karabakh, over which the archfoe countries fought two wars, in 2020 and in the 1990s.

On Wednesday, protesters parked cement mixers on bridges in Yerevan, briefly disrupting traffic in the capital while small groups of opposition supporters attempted to block the city's main thoroughfares.

Police detained dozens of people, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist witnessed. Opposition leaders have said that more than 200 people who were detained on Tuesday were released the same day.

Opposition leader and parliament vice-speaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan said, "Protests will mount and last until Pashinian steps down."

He said the opposition is planning to install an "interim government of technocrats" without party affiliation.

The ongoing protests highlight bitterness over Pashinian's leadership since the six-week war in 2020 over Karabakh that claimed more than 6,500 lives before ending with a Russian-brokered cease-fire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.

The pact was seen in Armenia as a national humiliation and sparked weeks of anti-government protests, leading Pashinian to call snap parliamentary polls which his party, Civil Contract, won last September.

Opposition parties have accused Pashinian of planning to give away to Baku parts of Karabakh that are still under Armenian control – after he told lawmakers last month that the "international community calls on Armenia to scale down demands on Karabakh."

Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflicts claimed around 30,000 lives.