Armenian military maintains call for premier to resign
Call was not made under any pressure, says Armenian army’s General Staff
The Armenian military on Thursday maintained its call for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign, saying the call was not made under any pressure.
In a statement, the General Staff of the Armenian army said the call is "a clear belief and stance to serve the salvation of the homeland."
"We are confirming our position. The call for the resignation was not made as a result of pressure," the statement said.
Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian also expressed support to the military's call and said: "At this moment of truth, I call on you [Armenian people] to be the owner of our state and to stand by our Armed Forces."
"The government that lost the war and handed over lands must leave. This [resignation call] is the guarantee of our national revival," he said on social media.
Meanwhile, opposition parties in Armenia started collecting signatures for the parliament to convene an extraordinary session, according to local sources.
The country's National Security Service also released a statement calling on citizens heading to streets to refrain from "provocative actions".
Thousands rally in capital Yerevan
After the Armenian military called for Pashinyan’s resignation, his supporters, as well as opposition supporters, took to the streets of the capital Yerevan.
While Pashinyan gathered with his supporters in the Republic Square in Yerevan, opposition groups supporting the military’s demand to resign came together in the Freedom Square.
Thousands of people participated in the demonstrations, and tensions between the two groups escalated from time to time.
In his speech at the Republic Square, Pashinyan underlined that his resignation will not solve the problems in the country.
"Only the people can decide whether I resign or not. Armenian people will not allow a military coup."
Referring to his phone call with the president on the situation, Pashinyan said he told Armen Sarkissian that he should sign the decree on the dismissal of Onik Gasparyan, the chief of General Staff of the Armenian army.
"If the president does not sign this, it means he supports the coup. This is a very simple option,” the prime minister said.
Calling on Gasparyan to resign, Pashinyan said: "I will not allow Gasparyan to stir up the army against the people. Other officials in the army should take office."
Reminding that he had previously proposed holding early parliamentary elections in the country, Pashinyan said he gave up this idea at the request of his supporters.
However, a written statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry stressed that the armed forces protect the borders of the country and ensure security.
"Attempts to involve the armed forces in the political processes in the country are unacceptable. Any such initiative poses a threat to stability and security in the country. The ministry will give the necessary reaction to such actions,” the statement added.
Recent unrest following end of Azerbaijan-Armenia military conflict
Earlier Thursday, the Armenian military released a statement calling on Pashinyan to step down.
The prime minister blasted the military's call as a "coup attempt," and urged his supporters to take to the streets to resist. He later announced the dismissal of the chief of General Staff on Facebook.
The unrest follows the end of a military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan last fall widely seen as a victory for the latter.
Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
During the six week-conflict, which ended with a Russian-brokered truce, Azerbaijan liberated several strategic cities and nearly 300 of its settlements and villages from Armenian occupation.
Before this, about 20% of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.