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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - YEREVAN: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of an attempted military coup against him on Thursday after the army demanded he and his government resign.
Pashinyan has faced protests and calls to quit after what critics said was the disastrous handling of a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.
Pashinyan, 45, has rejected calls to step down.
On Thursday, he called on followers to rally in the center of the capital, Yerevan, to support him and took to Facebook to address the nation in a livestream.
The livestream, he dismissed the head of the general staff of the armed forces and said a replacement would be announced later. He said the crisis would be overcome constitutionally.
“The most important problem now is to keep the power in the hands of the people, because I consider what is happening to be a military coup,” Pashinyan said.
It was unclear whether the army was willing to use force to back the statement in which it called for Pashinyan to resign, or whether its call for him to step down was just verbal.
The Kremlin said on Thursday it was concerned by growing political tensions in Armenia after the army demanded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resign in a move Pashinyan said looked like an attempted coup.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on both sides to resolve their differences peacefully and within the framework of the constitution.
Armenia, where Moscow has a military base, is a close Russian ally.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, offered to act as a mediator between Pashinyan and the general staff.
“We have already shed enough blood. It’s time to overcome the crises and move on. I’m in Yerevan and I’m ready to become a mediator to overcome this political crisis,” he said, urging all sides not to escalate.
Ethnic Armenian troops ceded swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in a conflict last year that killed thousands of people.
A cease-fire signed by leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia last November halted military action in and around the enclave, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. Some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are now being deployed to the region. Russia also has a military base in Armenia, a former Soviet republic.
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