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Protesters Block Yerevan Streets As Pressure Builds On Armenia's Prime Minister To Step Down

Protesters chanted, "Armenia without Nikol" and "Nikol must go!" as they flooded streets in the center of the Armenian capital on December 11.

YEREVAN -- Opposition activists have blocked several streets in Yerevan as pressure continues to build on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian amid opposition calls for him to step down over last month’s cease-fire deal with Azerbaijan.

Protesters chanted, "Armenia without Nikol" and "Nikol must go!" as they flooded streets in the center of the Armenian capital on December 11, even after Pashinian and his party indicated a day earlier that they were “ready to discuss” the possibility of holding fresh parliamentary elections.

“The authorities are ready to start such discussions on the condition, as the prime minister noted, that no party threatens others,” Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Alen Simonian told reporters on December 10.

Opposition supporters have rallied in Yerevan and other Armenian cities since Pashinian agreed to the Moscow-brokered deal that took effect on November 10, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

They are angry that the accord handed back to Azerbaijan swaths of territory ethnic Armenians had controlled since the 1990s.

Opposition politicians have called for the establishment of a new, interim government until early elections can be held in the coming months.

Pashinian, who swept to power amid nationwide protests in 2018, has said he has no plans to quit, insisting that he signed the deal because he is responsible for ensuring national security and stabilizing the former Soviet republic.

Arman Babajanian, a nominally independent parliamentarian critical of opposition forces demanding that Pashinian step aside, said his party had already held consultations with the ruling bloc on the matter.

“These discussions are continuing and we hope that they will be fruitful and result in a decision to schedule [snap] elections,” he said.

A coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties rallied several hundred supporters outside the main government building in Yerevan on December 10 as Pashinian held a weekly session of his cabinet.

Riot police used force to unblock a nearby street and detained more than 40 protesters.

Under the November truce deal, Azerbaijan took back control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all surrounding territories.

The agreement was a blow to Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian forces who had controlled nearly all of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as seven surrounding areas, since a 1994 cease-fire ended all-out war.

The region is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule.