La Gaceta De Mexico - Armenia detains demonstrators as protest leader seeks to oust PM

Armenia detains demonstrators as protest leader seeks to oust PM
Armenia detains demonstrators as protest leader seeks to oust PM / Photo: © AFP

Armenia detains demonstrators as protest leader seeks to oust PM

Armenia on Tuesday detained dozens of demonstrators in the capital Yerevan as large protests flared against government plans to concede land to the country's historic foe, Azerbaijan.

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Large numbers of police surrounded the crowds of demonstrators, some wrapped in Armenian flags. Police said they detained 63 people for attempting to block roads.

At a previous demonstration on Monday, police briefly detained around 150 protesters.

The ex-Soviet Caucasus country has agreed to hand over to neighbouring Azerbaijan territory it has controlled since the 1990s.

Yerevan has started border delimitation efforts, in a bid to secure an elusive peace deal with Baku and avoid another bloody conflict.

But the territorial concessions have sparked weeks of protests by demonstrators who have blocked major roads, in an attempt to force Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to change course.

Two opposition lawmakers attended Tuesday's demonstration led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, who addressed protesters through a loud speaker, dressed in black robes.

Galstanyan, a church leader from the Tavush region where villages are set to be handed over to Azerbaijan, is seeking to launch the process of impeaching Pashinyan.

This initially requires protesters to present an alternative prime ministerial candidate and 36 lawmakers must vote in favour.

The opposition has not yet presented a candidate for prime minister. Galstanyan, 52, is not eligible because he has joint Armenian and Canadian citizenship.

Parliamentary opposition factions have 35 lawmakers, meaning the protesters must also secure support from an independent MP or someone from Pashinyan's party.

Galstanyan has said an independent MP, Ishkhan Zakaryan, has agreed to vote in favour.

After these hurdles are overcome, an impeachment vote would need to be held within three days and would require 54 votes in favour to be successful.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics in the south Caucasus, have been locked in a stand-off over disputed territory, primarily Nagorno-Karabakh, since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The two countries last month announced they had begun border demarcation work as part of efforts to normalise relations.

Pashinyan travelled to Denmark on Monday for a working visit.

The former journalist became prime minister in 2018 after leading peaceful street protests.

He cracked down on corruption and introduced popular judicial reforms but infuriated many Armenians by agreeing in 2020 to return parts of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.

Baku recaptured Nagorno-Karabakh in a lightning offensive in September and talks over a broader border agreement have since intensified.