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Armenia apprehends 60 people as protestors demand PM’s ouster

Yerevan, 14 May 2024, (GNP): Armenia has arrested numerous protesters in Yerevan amid significant demonstrations against government intentions to hand over territory to Azerbaijan, its historical adversary.

A significant police presence encircled the demonstrators, some of whom were draped in Armenian flags. Authorities reported the arrest of 63 individuals for attempting to obstruct roads on Tuesday. During a previous protest on Monday, around 150 protesters were briefly detained.

Armenia, a former Soviet state in the Caucasus region, has committed to ceding territory it has held since the 1990s to Azerbaijan. Yerevan has initiated border demarcation efforts in hopes of achieving a long-awaited peace agreement with Baku and preventing further bloodshed.

The transfer of territory has triggered weeks of protests, with demonstrators blocking key roads in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to reverse course.

Two opposition legislators participated in Tuesday’s protest led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, who addressed the crowd in black robes via a loudspeaker.

Galstanyan, a religious figure from the Tavush region affected by the proposed handover to Azerbaijan, aims to initiate impeachment proceedings against Pashinyan.

Initially, protesters need to put forward an alternative candidate for prime minister, and 36 lawmakers must endorse this choice. However, the opposition has not yet nominated a candidate for the position.

Additionally, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, aged 52, cannot be considered as he holds dual Armenian and Canadian citizenship.

Currently, parliamentary opposition factions hold 35 seats, necessitating the support of an independent member of parliament or someone from Pashinyan’s party for the protesters to meet the required threshold.

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Once these challenges are addressed, an impeachment vote must be conducted within three days, requiring 54 votes in favor for success.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in a standoff over disputed territory, particularly Karabakh, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Last month, both nations announced the commencement of border demarcation work as part of efforts to normalize relations.

Prime Minister Pashinyan embarked on a working visit to Denmark on Monday. Initially rising to power in 2018 after leading peaceful protests, Pashinyan implemented anti-corruption measures and popular judicial reforms. However, his decision in 2020 to return parts of Karabakh to Azerbaijan stirred controversy and led to widespread discontent among Armenians.

Following Baku’s swift offensive in September, reclaiming Karabakh, negotiations for a broader border agreement have intensified.