Protesters block traffic in Armenia calling on PM to resign

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Police try to block demonstrators during a rally demanding the resignation of the country's prime minister over his handling of the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.Armenian opposition politicians and their supporters have been calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down ever since he signed a peace deal that halted 44 days of deadly fighting over the separatist region, but called for territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. (Aram Kirakosyan/PAN Photo via AP)

YEREVAN – Crowds of protesters took to the streets of Armenia's capital Tuesday, demanding the resignation of the country’s prime minister over his handling of the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian opposition politicians and their supporters have been calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down ever since he signed a peace deal that halted 44 days of deadly fighting over the separatist region, but called for territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

On Saturday, opposition parties warned Pashinyan there would be civil disobedience across the country if he doesn't resign by noon on Tuesday. The prime minister has refused to step down, defending the peace agreement as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Protesters on Tuesday temporarily blocked traffic on different streets of Yerevan, Armenia's capital, and at one point blocked trains at one of the city's subway stations. The subway had to shut down as the result until further notice, spokeswoman of the Yerevan subway Tatev Khachatryan told The Associated Press.

Demonstrators chanted “Armenia without Nikol,” “Nikol, go away!”

Similar protests were held in other Armenian cities. Police detained 81 protesters in Yerevan and seven in the city of Ararat.

The Armenian Apostolic Church on Tuesday joined in on the opposition's calls for Pashinyan to step down. The head of the church, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, urged the prime minister to resign in a statement, saying that the move would “prevent upheavals in public life, as well as possible clashes and tragic consequences.”

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.