Armenian Army Leaders Again Call On PM To Resign After Dismissal Of General

YEREVAN -- Armenia's armed forces have reiterated their call for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign shortly after he announced that a top general had been relieved of his duties.

The army's general staff and senior military commanders repeated their recent demand that Pashinian step down and that early parliamentary elections are the only way to solve the ongoing political crisis in the South Caucasus nation.

Pashinian's announcement of the dismissal of Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparian earlier in the day came as opposition leaders also continue to heap pressure on him, saying he should leave office.
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The announcement, posted on the government's website, said that Gasparian's dismissal automatically came into force after President Armen Sarkisian failed to sign the dismissal decree submitted by Pashinian and did not appeal it at the Constitutional Court within the legal time frame.

Pashinian, in power since 2018, is facing a crisis after the army last month demanded in a letter that he leave, prompting him to claim the move was an attempted coup.

Pashinian then moved to dismiss Gasparian, the Armenian military's top general, for signing the letter along with tens of other top armed forces officials.

At the heart of the turmoil is a Russian-brokered deal Pashinian signed in November that brought an end to fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian forces suffered territorial and battlefield losses from Azerbaijan's Turkish-backed military, while the deal saw Armenia cede control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven surrounding districts that had been occupied by Armenian forces since the early 1990s.

On March 9, thousands of opposition supporters blockaded the parliament building in Yerevan demanding Pashinian's resignation.

The demonstrators surrounded the building and engaged in occasional scuffles with police, as several opposition lawmakers stood between the two sides to prevent violent clashes.

Police officers clad in riot gear did not attempt to disperse the crowd.

At the heart of the turmoil is the Russian-brokered deal Pashinian signed in November that brought an end to the fighting after Armenian forces suffered territorial and battlefield losses from Azerbaijan's Turkish-backed military.

Supporters of Pashinian and the opposition have been staging competing rallies in the capital amid the crisis.

n an attempt to defuse the crisis, Pashinian has offered to hold snap parliamentary elections later this year but rejected the opposition’s demand to step down before the vote.

Pashinian has defended the November deal as the only way to prevent the Azerbaijani military from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the agreement.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and TASS

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