The opposition leader says a “large-scale civil disobedience campaign” will begin this week.
Thousands of opposition supporters have demonstrated in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, to warn the government against making concessions to archenemy Azerbaijan over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Opposition parties have accused Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of plans to give away all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan after he told lawmakers last month that “the international community calls on Armenia to reduce demands on Karabakh.”
On Sunday, several thousand opposition supporters gathered in France Square in the center of the capital, blocking traffic throughout central Yerevan.
The protesters shouted Demand Pashinyan’s resignationwith many carrying banners reading “Karabakh”.
Opposition Leader and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Ishkhan Saghatelyan said: “Any political status of Karabakh within Azerbaijan is unacceptable to us.”
“Pashinyan had betrayed the trust of the people and he must go,” he told reporters at the rally, adding that the protest movement “will lead to the overthrow of the government in the near future.”
Addressing the crowd, the opposition leader announced that a “large-scale campaign of civil disobedience” will begin next week.
“I call on everyone to start strikes. I call on students not to attend classes. Traffic will be completely blocked in the center of Yerevan,” he said.
On Saturday, the Armenian National Security Service warned of “a real threat of mass unrest in the country.”
Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a territorial dispute since the 1990s over Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s mountainous region populated predominantly by ethnic Armenians. Karabakh was at the center of a six week war in 2020 which claimed more than 6,500 lives before it ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Under the deal, Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.
In April, Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels for talks mediated by the European Union, after which instructed its foreign ministers to “begin preparatory work for peace talks.”
The meeting came after an outbreak in Karabakh on March 25 that saw Azerbaijan capture a strategic village in the area under the responsibility of Russian peacekeepers, killing three separatist soldiers.
Baku presented in mid-March a set of framework proposals for the peace agreement that includes mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of both parties, which means that Yerevan should accept that Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan sparked controversy at home when he said, commenting on Azerbaijan’s proposal, that for Yerevan “the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a territorial issue, but a rights issue” of the local ethnic Armenian population.
Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Subsequent conflicts have claimed around 30,000 lives.