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Armenia, Azerbaijan Sign Russia-Brokered Truce Deal, Triggering Unrest In Yerevan


A woman wheels a stroller with a child as police officers guard in front of the government building in Yerevan, November 10, 2020

The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia have signed an agreement to end six weeks of military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering a political crisis in Armenia where angry protesters stormed government buildings and parliament.

The November 10 announcement of the Russian-brokered agreement to end the fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians came after Azerbaijani forces made major battlefield gains, including reports they were approaching the region’s capital, Stepanakert.

Pashinian first announced the trilateral agreement in a Facebook post, saying he had signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on the "termination" of the war as of 1 p.m. local time.

Pashinian said the deal, which includes the long-term deployment of Russian troops to the region, was "the best possible solution for the current situation."

Armenia Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on November 10.
Armenia Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on November 10.

"I made this decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation and an assessment of the people who know it best," Pashinian wrote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he believed the agreement "will create [the] necessary conditions for a long-term and full-fledged settlement of the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh on a fair basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azerbaijani people."

Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto ethnic-Armenian leader, Arayik Harutiunian, said he had agreed with Pashinian to end hostilities "given the current dire situation" and to avoid even greater military defeats and losses.

Under the deal, Azerbaijan will keep territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas captured during the conflict. It also calls for Armenian forces to hand over some areas it held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the eastern district of Aggdam and the western area of Kelbajar.

Armenians will also forfeit the Lachin region, where a crucial road connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The agreement calls for a 5-kilometer wide area in the so-called Lachin Corridor to remain open and be protected by around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers.

Russia said later its troops had already been sent to the South Caucasus to be deployed for a peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russian peacekeepers boarding a military plane in Russia heading for Nagorno-Karabakh, November 10, 2020
Russian peacekeepers boarding a military plane in Russia heading for Nagorno-Karabakh, November 10, 2020

The agreement also calls for Russian border services to monitor a new transport corridor through Armenia connecting Azerbaijan to its western exclave of Nakhijevan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.

Aliyev said that Turkey, a close ally of Baku, would take part in the peacekeeping center to monitor the cease-fire.

Since fighting erupted in late September, several thousand people are believed to have been killed on both sides.

Azerbaijan said on November 8 its forces had taken the key town of Shushi (Shusha), offering strategic heights over Nagorno-Karabakh's main city, Stepanakert, just 10 kilometers away.

Shushi also lies along the main road connecting Stepanakert with Armenia.

Thousands of people fled Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days to Armenia as the Azerbaijani forces were closing in on both Shushi and Stepanakert.

Azerbaijan's forces in recent weeks have also retaken several regions outside Nagorno-Karabakh that were controlled by ethnic Armenian forces.

Unhappy with the situation, several thousand angry protesters gathered in Yerevan in the early hours of November 10 after Pashinian announced he had signed the cease-fire agreement, with mobs storming the government headquarters and parliament, ransacking offices and smashing windows in an outburst of anger.

Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan was injured in a mob attack and hospitalized, drawing a sharp rebuke from the government.

Dozens of men also tried to break into RFE/RL's bureau in Yerevan, calling the Armenian Service "traitors."

The Union of Journalist of Armenia and Armenia's ombudsman condemned the attacks and any threats against media.

Later in the morning the Armenian police formed cordons to protect government offices and the parliament building.

Meanwhile, President Armen Sarkissian's office said later on Tuesday that he was launching "political consultations" to build national unity and "coordinate…solutions arising from our agenda of protecting national interests."

Sarkissian said in a statement he had learnt about the agreement to end the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh from the media.

"Unfortunately, there were no consultations or discussions with me, as the President of the Republic, regarding this document, and I did not participate in any negotiations," he said, insisting that the signing of such an important document involving Armenia’s "vital security interests" and the "whole Armenian nation" should have been subjected to "comprehensive consultations and discussions."

The previous day, 17 opposition parties issued a joint statement calling for Pashinian’s resignation amid a series of military defeats suffered by Armenia-backed ethnic Armenian forces fighting against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Among the parties that signed the statement were the main parliamentary opposition party, Prosperous Armenia, led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian, the former ruling Republican Party of ex-President Serzh Sarkisian, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), and the Hayrenik (Homeland) party led by former director of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsian, who was relieved of his duties in 2019 over differences with Pashinian.

Angry protesters stormed the parliamentary assembly in Yerevan on November 10 after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he had signed an agreement with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Angry protesters stormed the parliamentary assembly in Yerevan on November 10 after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he had signed an agreement with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In his comments following the night of chaos, Pashinian implied that corruption in previous governments was also to blame for the current situation.

"We must prepare for revenge. We haven’t dealt properly with the corrupt, oligarchic scoundrels, those who robbed this country, stole soldiers' food, stole soldiers' weapons,” said Pashinian, a reformist pressing an anti-corruption campaign who came to power in 2018 in the wake of mass popular protests.

"I call on citizens with dignity to be ready for us going after the rioters and their bosses, after the corrupt part of Dashnaktsutiun, after the robbers from the Republican Party, the Prosperous Armenia Party, the deserters from the Hayrenik party who left their combat positions and fled, and must be tried for desertion," he charged.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Defense Ministry and the General Staff of the Armed Forces issued a statement, calling on all to refrain from actions that could “undermine the foundations of [Armenia’s] statehood.”

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