Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Monday that he was ready to call early elections to bring the country out of a political crisis that followed last year's war with Azerbaijan.

"If the parliamentary opposition agrees to early elections, we will agree to early elections," he told thousands of supporters gathered in Yerevan's central Republic Square.

He said he was ready to give opposition parties demanding his resignation "a second chance" to defeat him in a vote.

"Let's go to the polls and see whose resignation the people are demanding," said Pashinyan, who swept to power after spearheading peaceful protests in 2018.

Several thousand opposition supporters also gathered on Monday outside parliament, where activists have set up a tent camp and vowed to stay until Pashinyan and his government step down.

Earlier, a group of protesters had barged into a government building in the capital chanting for Pashinyan to quit, the RIA news agency reported.

Pashinyan, in power since 2018 in the ex-Soviet republic of less than 3 million people, is facing a crisis after the army last week demanded he step down, prompting him to decry a coup attempt and sack the army's top general.

The president, however, refused to sign off on the general's removal on Saturday, declaring it unconstitutional.

Pashinyan has sent back his decree demanding the general's dismissal to the president's office.

The country's Security Council on Monday urged President Armen Sarkissian to approve the sacking, the Interfax news agency reported. RIA reported that Pashinyan also met Sarkissian on Monday.

Pashinyan has faced calls to resign since last November when he agreed to a Russian-brokered ceasefire that halted six weeks of fighting between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

His critics accuse him of bungling the conflict in which Azerbaijan made territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and until recently fully controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Pashinyan admitted to making mistakes during the conflict but said "only the people can decide who will remain in power".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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